What You Need to Know to Prevent Food Poisoning: Tips for Avoiding Illness
How to Prevent Food Poisoning & Related Illnesses
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that around one in six Americans falls seriously ill from eating contaminated food each year. Foodborne illnesses and diseases are costly and sometimes even fatal, and although food poisoning cases are quite common, they are almost always preventable.
Food poisoning is generally a result of consuming food or beverages that have been contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites or toxic substances. The majority of foodborne illnesses and injury lawsuits filed involve foods which are contaminated before they reach a home or restaurant kitchen. Other cases involve foods contaminated by negligent food handlers.
Joe Lyon is a highly-rated Ohio personal injury attorney with experience in injuries due to food poisoning. The Lyon Firm has represented plaintiffs nationwide in foodborne illness claims.
Common Types of Food Poisoning
Foodborne illnesses and diseases include a wide variety of illnesses. Over 250 food-related diseases have been medically reviewed, most of which are infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites. The most common pathogens may include:
- Hepatitis A
- E Coli (Escherichia coli)
- Listeria (Listeriosis)
Prevent Food Poisoning: How to Keep Food Safe
Following simple food safety procedures can greatly reduce the number of foodborne illnesses each year by helping individuals to prevent food poisoning. Food handlers and those responsible for preparing raw and cooked foods are urged to wash hands and surfaces often, separate raw meats and seafood, properly chill foods and cook all meat, seafood and some vegetables thoroughly. The CDC recommends following certain guidelines to safely prepare food including:
- Wash hands with soap and water before and after preparing food
- Wash hands before eating
- Wash utensils, cutting boards, and countertops with hot, soapy water
- Rinse fruits and vegetables under running water.
- Separate meats from other foods—do not cross-contaminate raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs
- Use separate cutting boards and plates for raw meat, poultry, and seafood
- Cook foods to the correct temperature and use a food thermometer—food is only safely cooked when the internal temperature is high enough to kill dangerous pathogens
- After shopping, refrigerate foods promptly. Do not leave perishable food out for more than two hours
- Thaw frozen food safely in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave.
Foods Commonly Linked to Serious Illness
Some foods are more likely to carry harmful germs than others. Raw foods of animal origin are the most likely to be contaminated, specifically raw or undercooked meat and poultry, raw or lightly cooked eggs, unpasteurized milk, and raw shellfish. Fruits and vegetables may also be contaminated in the field, during processing, or during other stages in the food production chain. Understanding the risk factors associated with different food product may help you to prevent food poisoning for yourself and your family.
- Raw Poultry & Meat—most raw poultry contains Campylobacter. It also may contain Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, and other bacteria. Other raw meats may contain Salmonella, E. coli, Yersinia, and other bacteria. It is not advisable to wash raw poultry or meat before cooking it as that may spread bacteria to other foods, utensils, and surfaces, and is not known to prevent illness. Thoroughly cooking poultry and meat is the best way to destroy germs.
- Fresh Produce—sometimes raw fruits and vegetables contain harmful pathogens like Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be contaminated anywhere in the food chain, including by cross-contamination in the kitchen. It is recommended to wash fruit and vegetable before consuming raw.
- Raw Milk, Cheese, and Other Dairy Products—raw milk and dairy products (including soft cheeses, ice cream, and yogurt) can carry Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella. Milk products are made safe through pasteurization, which requires enough heat to kill disease-causing germs. Most of the nutritional benefits of drinking raw milk are also available from pasteurized milk, without the risk.
- Raw Eggs—eggs can contain a germ called Salmonella that can make you sick, even if the egg looks clean and uncracked. To be safe, cook eggs until the yolks and whites are firm, keep eggs refrigerated at 40°F or colder, and do not taste or eat raw batter or dough.
- Raw Shellfish & Oysters—oysters and other shellfish can contain viruses and bacteria. Raw or undercooked oysters can contain Vibrio bacteria, which can lead to an infection called vibriosis. Oysters harvested from contaminated waters can also contain norovirus.
- Sprouts—eating raw or lightly cooked sprouts may lead to food poisoning from Salmonella, E. coli, or Listeria. Cooking sprouts helps kills germs and reduces the chance of food poisoning.
How Food Gets Contaminated in the Food Production Chain
Most of America’s food comes from domesticated animals and plants, and their production occurs on farms or ranches. Though it is the obligation of stores, distributors, restaurants, and manufacturers to prevent food poisoning from being passed to consumers, this is not always the case. Examples of contamination in food production, processing and distribution include the following:
- If a hen’s reproductive organs are infected, the yolk of an egg can be contaminated
- If the fields are sprayed with contaminated water for irrigation, fruits and vegetables can be contaminated
- Contaminated water or ice used to wash, pack, or chill fruits or vegetables may contaminate the food
- During the slaughter process, germs from an animal’s hide or organs can get into the final meat product
- If germs contaminate surfaces used for food processing, pathogens can spread to foods that touch those surfaces
- If refrigerated food is left on a loading dock for long time in warm weather, it may allow bacteria to grow
- Fresh produce can be contaminated if it is loaded into a truck that was not cleaned after transporting animals or animal products
Mishandling of food is common at multiple points in the food chain, from production to processing, distribution and preparation. Sometimes by the time a food causes illness, it has been mishandled in several areas along the food production chain. Once contamination occurs, further mishandling, such as undercooking can make a foodborne illness more likely. It is the responsibility for food companies and food handlers to prevent cases of food poisoning.
If you or a loved one has suffered from a foodborne infection, and have questions about the legal remedies available to improve quality of life and medical care, contact The Lyon Firm (800) 513-2403. You will speak directly with Mr. Lyon, and he will help you answer these critical questions.