Published on: May 25, 2006
Pathologists Offer Simple Steps To Avoid Food Poisoning
This Barbecue Season
Taking preventative measures can reduce your risk of becoming ill
Northfield, IL – The picnic and barbecue season traditionally begins on Memorial Day Weekend. While summer is a time to enjoy preparing and eating food outdoors, it’s also a time when many Americans experience a food borne illness. In fact, about 76 million Americans are stricken by food-borne illnesses, often called food poisoning, each year. This means about one in five people around the picnic table faces the risk of food poisoning.
Pathologists, physicians who examine tissues and fluids to diagnose illnesses, say food poisoning is common during the summer months as families get together for picnics and backyard barbecues where there may be less adherence to hand washing and properly preparing food.
“As a pathologist, I know that E.coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter are some of the most commonly identified food borne illnesses that are caused by eating contaminated foods or beverages,” said
Maria Picken, MD, PhD, FCAP of Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill. “Eating undercooked ground beef has been associated with E-coli illness. That’s why it’s important to follow food safety guidelines to reduce your risk of becoming ill.”
The College of American Pathologists (CAP) reminds all Americans to follow some simple steps when preparing, transporting and serving food this summer:
Everybody is at risk for food poisoning, but certain people are at a higher risk, including young children, pregnant women, people over 65, and people who are immuno-compromised. Common symptoms of food poisoning are nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If they persist longer than 36 hours, consult a physician.
- Wash your hands before and immediately after handling raw food.
- Keep cold food cold. Place cold food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs. Cold food should be held at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If carrying food to another location, place the cooler in the coolest part of the car.
- Defrost meat completely before grilling so it cooks more evenly. Use the refrigerator for slow, safe thawing. If the food is defrosted in a microwave, it should be placed immediately on the grill.
- When cooking both chicken and beef, remember to use a separate thermometer for each.
- Beef should be cooked to medium—enough to eliminate the pink color in the center (160 degrees Fahrenheit). Chicken should be cooked to 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Wash raw food—vegetables and fruit—before eating or using in prepared foods.
- Use separate mixing utensils and bowls for each dish.
- When removing meat from the grill, put it on a clean platter (not the one you brought it out on.)
- Put leftovers away promptly. Food left out for more than two hours is susceptible to bacteria.
The College of American Pathologists is a medical society that serves nearly 16,000 physician members and the laboratory community throughout the world. It is the world’s largest association composed exclusively of pathologists and is widely considered the leader in laboratory quality assurance. The College is an advocate for high-quality and cost-effective medical care.