In Northeast Iowa we are always glad to see the coming warm months of spring and summer. Unfortunately with that warmer weather we also see an increase in foodborne illnesses.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), foodborne illness affects 48 million Americans, causes 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths annually. Anyone, regardless of race, age, gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status, is at risk. Fortunately, most foodborne illnesses are self-limiting; however, they cost our nation millions in lost productivity, medical, and legal expenses.
In order to prevent foodborne illness at home:
- Wash hands, utensils, and food surfaces often. Wash hands with soap and warm water before and after handling food. Use hot, soapy water when washing utensils, cutting boards, and other food surfaces.
- Separate raw food from ready-to-eat food when shopping, preparing, or storing food.
- Cook food to a safe temperature using a food thermometer. Follow the temperature guidelines for specific food from the information below:
- Fresh beef, veal, lamb, and pork – 145 °F, let rest for 3 minutes.
- Seafood – 145 °F
- Ground beef – 160 °F
- Egg dishes – 160°F
- Poultry – 165 °F
- Leftovers and casseroles – 165 °F
- Eggs – Cook until yolk and white are firm.
- Promptly refrigerate or freeze perishable food within two hours of purchasing or preparation. Food left at room temperature too long may contain infectious organisms that cannot be destroyed by cooking. Put food in freezer if it will not be consumed within two days.
- Safely defrost food in the refrigerator or by microwaving the food using the “defrost” or “50 percent power” setting. Foods thawed in the microwave should be cooked immediately. Running cold water over frozen food also safely thaws the food. Do not thaw foods at room temperature.
- When in doubt, throw it out. Discard any food if uncertain whether or not it was prepared, served, or stored safely. Do not taste questionable food. Even if it looks and smells fine, it may not be safe to eat.
Make sure to consult with a healthcare provider if a foodborne illness is suspected or before taking any anti-diarrheal medication. Request that the provider submit a stool sample to the State Hygienic Laboratory (SHL) for testing. Treatment for foodborne illness depends on the source of the illness, and the severity of one’s symptoms. People who are healthy often improve without taking any medications. They should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration due to diarrhea.
For additional information, please contact the Allamakee County Public Health Office at Veterans Memorial Hospital Community and Home Care at 563-568-5660 or the Center for Acute Disease Epidemiology at the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services.