Food recalls give most of us a scare.
We wonder if we have just eaten the food product that just hit the news, shouting that it could make us sick, or worry if we have it in our kitchen. If we do have it in the pantry, we may worry that someone will eat it or serve it to the kids before we can take action to remove it.
Detective Foodsafe® worries too, because she has seen the damage unsafe foods can do to people who contract foodborne illness, or food poisoning.
The good news is that we are become savvy consumers. We read news about food recalls and pay attention to those that could impact the health of our families.
We have learned that sometimes there could be a recall not because the food is contaminated by germs, but may merely contain an ingredient not listed on the label. As long as no one is allergic to that food, such as walnuts or milk, we don’t need to worry about that particular food recall.
If we hear that there is a recall due to a potential for plastic or metal shavings or even glass in the food we have purchased, we can simply return it to the grocery store to keep the family from any danger.
But what about the pathogens that could cause us physical harm if we unknowingly consume the product under recall?
Which pathogens are most prevalent, what food is usually affected and how did it get into the food are questions for which we would like answers, especially since the number of food recalls is on the increase.
Detective Foodsafe’ s mission is to help us all learn about potential contaminants and how to avoid being the next victim.
Causes of Food Poisoning
Common pathogens that can make us sick include bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
Food that contains these pathogens in sufficient quantities to make us all sick usually is a result of improper food handling somewhere in the process.
Unfortunately, contaminated food often does not look, smell or even taste bad. You can become sick in as little as thirty minutes after eating food containing these pathogens.
Detective Foodsafe® explains that there are eight causes of food poisoning which are more common than others and those are the ones that we should learn more about in order to prevent becoming sick.
The most common form, it causes diarrhea and results in the most hospitalizations and deaths; it affects pregnant women, kids, and older adults the hardest. Results from eating raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, meats, unpasteurized milk, melons, and sprouts. It is important for food handlers to wash hands well, especially after using the bathroom, to prevent spreading. To avoid its spread, fully cook foods to proper internal temperature and clean surfaces to reduce cross contamination. Handwashing is key!
Is most harmful for young children and seniors. Most common symptoms are abdominal cramping and diarrhea. Often called the buffet germ, as it thrives in large portions of foods that are not held at the correct temperature. Prevent contamination by storing leftovers properly and reheating completely.
Diarrhea results from contamination, cross contamination from raw or undercooked poultry and meat, and direct consumption of these foods, as well as unpasteurized milk, untreated water, and contaminated produce. Occurs more frequently in the summer and affects young and old more severely. Prevent with handwashing, washing produce, using separate cutting boards, drinking pasteurized milk and cooking all protein foods thoroughly.
Certain strains can be extremely severe. Sources include raw or undercooked ground beef or drinking unpasteurized beverages or dairy products. Cooking meat thoroughly, preventing cross contamination and avoiding drinking lake/pond/pool water.
Symptoms include nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting or diarrhea. Destroyed by heating thoroughly. Ready to eat foods that come in contact with human hands, such as ham, are at greatest risk of human to food contact plus drinking unpasteurized milk. Keep foods at proper temperature, wash surfaces, avoid human contamination, don’t touch face during prep, and wash hands often.
Listeria is able to grow in refrigerated conditions and is more dangerous for at risk populations like young, old, pregnant women, and those who are immune suppressed. Most often found in ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs, deli meats, unpasteurized milk, raw sprouts, dairy products, and raw and undercooked meat, poultry, and seafood. To avoid problems: cook foods thoroughly, prevent cross contamination, wash hands, wash reusable grocery bags, and clean the refrigerator regularly.
A leading cause of illness, its symptoms mimic stomach flu such as stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It spreads quickly in crowds by people who are already ill. Foods often at risk are fresh produce, shellfish, ice, fruit, and ready-to-eat foods, especially salads, sandwiches, and cookies that have been prepared by someone who is infected are sources of norovirus. Avoid food prep when ill.
A parasite which causes illness similar to flu, including swollen lymph glands, muscle aches, and pains that last for months, can affect the eyes causing vision to be reduced or blurred or cause eye pain, redness, or tearing. Sources include contaminated meat, cross contamination of raw meat to other foods, drinking contaminated water, or changing cat litter. Use a food thermometer to insure proper internal temperature to kill parasite, wash produce and hands.
Common Prevention Practices
Detective Foodsafe reminds us all that the top eight pathogens that can cause food poisoning for you and your family are also spread in your own kitchen and are not just found in recalled food.
It is important to be aware of the common threads in all eight contaminants – handwashing, clean surfaces, cross contamination, temperature control, and handwashing.
Did Detective Foodsafe say handwashing?
Handling all foods safely from the time you purchase, through the process, until you actually eat them is vital to prevent foodborne illness.
In addition to being aware of those foods that you might have in the kitchen which may have been exposed to pathogens that are now being recalled, being food safe at home will help you and your family avoid becoming victims.