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Foodborne Illness

Summer is the time for outdoor picnics and barbeques, but unless precautions are taken, foodborne illness can occur, says a dietitian at SIU School of Medicine.

Foodborne infections increase in the summer months because of the warmer temperatures.  And more people are cooking and eating outside where food can spoil faster.  Eating contaminated food may cause symptoms such as fever, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps.  Sybil Cox, registered dietitian at SIU medical school in Springfield, offers some tips to keep food safe.

SOUND BITE:  “Keeping the environment clean; keeping raw foods separate from cooked foods; keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold.  Those are the main four things that people can do.” 

To help prevent food from spoiling, she recommends putting food that needs to be chilled in a cooler with ice and keeping it in the cooler until it’s time to cook or serve it.  She says people need to be aware of the length of time the food is sitting out in hot weather.  Also, Cox says foods need to be cooked to the proper temperatures.  

SOUND BITE “ . . . if you’re not going to be at your home, you do need to take some type of thermometer with you so that you can test the internal temperature.  Ground beef or pork needs to cooked to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit; chicken or poultry needs to be cooked at 165 degrees Fahrenheit; and things like fish or steaks can actually be cooked at 145 degrees Fahrenheit to be considered safe.”     

Cox says children, the elderly, pregnant women and individuals with a weakened immune system are at most risk of getting a foodborne illness.  If someone does get sick from food, they should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and see their personal physician as soon as possible.

This is Ruth Slottag at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.