Keep food poisoning at bay this holiday season

Written by Cara Murez

Health Day reporter

TUESDAY, Nov. 22, 2022 (HealthDay News) — A happy holiday can quickly sink in when food poisoning joins the party.

Experts at the Rutgers New Jersey Poison Control Center offer tips for safely thawing, preparing and storing food and avoiding problems with alcohol and drugs.

“Forgetting food safety is a recipe for disaster,” said Diane Calello, executive director of the poison control center at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School’s emergency department.

“Do not cook food if you have any respiratory illness or infection as this can make your guests sick. No matter how crowded your kitchen is during the holidays, always remember the risks of improper food handling,” he said in a Rutgers news release.

Food poisoning is not a small problem. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it sickens about 48 million Americans each year, resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. But here’s some advice from the poison control center on how to avoid it:

  • For starters, don’t forget to clean, separate, cook and cool.
  • Wash hands and surfaces frequently with warm water and soap when preparing food.
  • Use only water, not soap, to clean fruits and vegetables.
  • Do not allow raw food to come into contact with raw poultry, meat, or seafood while grocery shopping or in the refrigerator. Use one cutting board for produce and bread and another for raw meats or seafood.
  • While the refrigerator should be set below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, a food thermometer can help ensure that cooked foods reach a safe internal temperature.
  • Frozen food should never be thawed on the counter, but rather in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave, because bacteria, parasites and viruses can multiply quickly at room temperature.
  • Perishable food must be cooled within two hours.
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The effects of food poisoning can be felt within a few hours and may include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea and fever. It is especially risky for young children, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.

It’s also important to understand safe drinking and recognize alcohol poisoning, the poison control center advises. Be aware of how much alcohol you actually consume, not just the number of drinks, to avoid having more than is safe.

Certain holiday foods are not even safe for pets. These include chocolate, candy, bread and pasta, fatty meat scraps, grapes, raisins and currants, sugar-free products and cocoa. Artificial sweeteners such as xylitol can cause serious illness, as can items that look like food, such as button batteries, small magnets, vapor and nicotine products, pharmaceuticals, recreational and prescription drugs.

More information

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is more concerned with food poisoning.

SOURCE: Rutgers, press release, November 17, 2022

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Source: https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/food-poisoning/news/20221122/keep-food-poisoning-at-bay-this-holiday-season?src=RSS_PUBLIC