Insights & Actions for Healthy Living
Food Safety Tips for Diabetics in American Diabetes Month

Food Safety Tips for Diabetics in American Diabetes Month

It seems like every day we hear about another recall on foods we tend to use regularly, foods that can lead to foodborne illness if eaten.

The latest food safety alerts include foods such as seafood, nuts, cucumbers, cookies, and apples.

It can be alarming for us to hear about recalls on foods we have in our pantry already, especially if we have eaten some of it, even when we don’t live in the affected state and therefore are truly not affected.

The food we prepare in our own kitchens can also put us at risk, especially if we have diabetes.

This fear about our food safety and potential foodborne illness can be even greater for those people who have diabetes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year in the US 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne illness.

As we celebrate American Diabetes Month, it is a good time to learn more about how those of us who feed people with diabetes or are themselves diabetic can help reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

Food Safety Risk For Diabetics

People who have diabetes, nearly 29 million Americans, can have a compromised immune system, which could put them at increased risk for becoming ill when exposed to food contamination regardless of the source.

Becoming ill from contaminated food negatively impacts the gastrointestinal system with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea which causing blood sugar levels to fluctuate. When your GI tract is upset, it makes it difficult to eat healthy, nutritious foods further sending blood sugar levels into the abnormal range.

Normally, our kidneys help cleanse the body but for people with diabetes, their kidney function may be impaired worsening an illness.

Steps to Prevent Food Poisoning

People with diabetes should take even more precautions to prevent food contamination and a possible foodborne illness than health individuals. Prevention will be worth a pound of cure in this instance.

Safe food handling at home can help reduce your risk of foodborne illness. These principles are standards for safe food handling and should be followed each time you prepare food.

  • Clean – wash your hands frequently including before you begin and between each food item you prepare; keep all food preparation surfaces clean including cabinet handles and faucets that you may touch during prep
  • Separate – use different cutting boards for raw, cooked and ready to eat foods to prevent cross contamination; keep these foods separate in the refrigerator and during food handling; don’t re-use marinade unless thoroughly heated; use different utensils and dishware for cooked and raw foods
  • Cook – cook your food thoroughly and use a food thermometer to be sure it has reached the proper temperature before eating; reheat leftovers completely
  • Chill – store food at the correct temperature using an internal refrigerator (40 degrees and below) and freezer (0 degrees or below) thermometer to be sure the temperature is not compromised; chill food promptly after grocery store trip; store leftovers within 2 hours

What Else Should You Do?

Handling food using the most careful precautions will greatly reduce your risk of food poisoning, but you can also make some other safe food choices that will help too.

  • Choose milk and juices that are pasteurized. Read the label to be sure your items are heat processed to kill harmful bacteria. Also avoid soft cheeses made with raw milk.
  • Buy eggs that are pasteurized in the shell or in liquid form.
  • Avoid raw foods such as sushi, undercooked burgers, sprouts and smoked fish.
  • Always wash fresh produce including melons or other foods with skins you aren’t going to eat as slicing can contaminate the flesh.
  • Never thaw foods on the counter or in the sink. Thaw in the refrigerator, microwave or under cold running water.
  • Read the expiration dates on foods before you buy and as you store them at home.
  • When eating out, avoid foods that could cause illness such as undercooked items and raw eggs.
  • Don’t buy dented or bulging cans and always wash the lid before opening.

When Foodborne Illness Strikes

Sometimes even when we take all the food safe precautions we can, a person with diabetes can still develop foodborne illness.

It is important to be aware of the symptoms and potential effects of foodborne illness on our blood sugar control.

Symptoms could be mild or progressively severe for someone with diabetes and include nausea, diarrhea, dehydration, confusion, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain or cramps, fever, muscle aches and fatigue.

If you think you have a foodborne illness, contact your doctor to seek medical treatment. Your doctor may want you to test your blood sugar at different times and adjust medications to normalize your blood sugar.

Continue to drink water as able to prevent dehydration.

Understanding the potential danger for you or your family member with diabetes from food poisoning and the need to prevent contamination will help you all stay well!

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