Fickle Food

Summer days are finally here! Long stretches of daylight are perfect for indulging in our favorite outdoor past times. Long days usually mean taking food along with us. During this time food is often left un-refrigerated. If bacteria begins to grow on and in the food, and we eat it, we may be in for some uncomfortable after effects.

There are many different types of bacteria that can cause food poisoning in humans. Typically, after a person has ingested bad food they will get stomach and intestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. While a normally healthy adult can tolerate these kinds of symptoms over the period of a day, we worry most about young children, the elderly or chronically ill adults. These folks tend to become sicker and can become dehydrated quickly.

Some bacteria are more dangerous than others. We’ve all heard about serious problems following food poisoning with bacteria such as Salmonella, E-Coli and Botulism. While these illnesses can be very serious, most people suffering from food poisoning are not ill as a result of encounters with these particular bacteria.

Here are some helpful hints when it comes to keeping food bacteria-free this summer:

  • Bacteria like to grow in a temperature range of 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid keeping foods in this temperature range. Do not eat foods that have been in this temperature range over two hours.
  • Use shallow dishes for foods so that they will heat thoroughly and chill quickly and evenly.
  • During a power outage your refrigerator will remain cold for about four to six hours and a half full freezer can last for up to one day if you don’t frequently open the door.
  • Don’t keep groceries in a hot car for more than two hours, and eat hot take out food within two hours of purchase.
  • Cook red meat until the pink is gone and chicken until there is no red in the joints.
  • When working with food, regularly wash hands, counters, cutting boards and utensils with warm, soapy water.
  • Do not re-use a plate for cooked meat that had been used for raw meat without washing it thoroughly.
  • Foods like rice, meat, fish, eggs, creams (like those found in éclairs or custards), potato salad, milk and milk products, gravies and cooked pasta can become good breeding grounds for food bacteria.
  • If food containers look different or damaged, don’t buy or eat the food out of them.
  • Foods that are spoiled will not necessarily taste, smell or look “off.”
  • If a person has developed mild stomach upset, like vomiting and diarrhea, try to keep them well hydrated with water or other clear fluids such as Gatorade™.
  • A person can stay adequately hydrated if they sip a tablespoon of water every 15 to 30 minutes. By taking small sips, the fluid is more likely to stay down.
  • Do not give any medicine to stop diarrhea unless advised by your physician. Doing so may lengthen the course of the illness.
  • Symptoms usually show up from six to 48 hours after eating bad food, but can show up sooner, or later.
  • When should you call a doctor? If symptoms are severe and/or last more than 24 hours or if the person is young, pregnant, elderly or has a chronic illness – get medical help immediately.