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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:    “There’s four words to remember – clean, separate, cook and chill.  And that means to wash your hands and the surfaces often to keep your area clean and free of bacteria.  And separate, which means don’t cross contaminate things that are raw.  Raw meats especially should be kept separate from any cooked foods or other foods.”

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:    “For beef, pork, lamb – those types of meats, if they are in like a steak form or roast form, those should be cooked to at least 145 degrees.  If it’s ground meat like ground beef or pork, or lamb, that should be 160. And poultry should be cooked to 165.  And you should bring a thermometer with you so you can check those temperatures.”

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.