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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. Sibyl Cox, registered dietitian at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, offers some tips to keep food safe.

“... keeping things clean, cold and hot if they need to be hot.  Washing their hands, keeping their surfaces clean.  If they don’t have any access to water bringing those bacterial wipes and things to wipe hands and surfaces with.  Bringing disposable utensils or plenty of clean utensils and keeping cutting boards for raw meats separate from the other things ...”

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.  

“They should bring some type of thermometer with them to their outside activity. And then poultry should be cooked to 165. Any kind of ground meat or pork like beef or pork would be 160 degrees.  Other cuts of beef or pork and lamb should be cooked to 145.  And if they’re reheating meat at the location, 165.”

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.

Ruth Slottag