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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.

SOUND BITE:  “Three words that people should try to remember when preparing food for a picnic or barbeque – keep it clean, keep it cold and keep it hot.  So keeping it clean – make sure you have a way to wash your hands, or take towelettes to wipe your hands off. And preparing food on clean surfaces and having multiple surfaces to prepare food on.”

To 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 that food is sitting out in hot weather. 

Also, Cox says foods need to be cooked to the proper temperatures.  

SOUND BITE:   “When cooking at an outside facility, you always want to make sure you bring a food thermometer, so you can check the temperature of the meat you are cooking.  All poultry should be cooked at 165 degrees.  Any ground meat like pork or beef should be cooked to 160 degrees and full cuts of meat like pork or beef that are not ground should be 145 degrees.”

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.