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Take care to avoid food poisoning


Undercooked food can cause illness. Consider using a food thermometer to ensure that food is cooked to a safe internal temperature. Undercooked food can cause illness. Consider using a food thermometer to ensure that food is cooked to a safe internal temperature.

The warmer months of the year have arrived and it is this time of year that I typically see more cases of foodborne illnesses or food poising. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) states that anybody can get food poising but most people do not think about it until they or someone they know becomes ill. Public health reports indicate that food borne illnesses are common and quite costly.

Data from the CDC indicate that each year one in six or 48 million Americans will become ill with food poising. The agency further notes that 128,000 people will be hospitalized due to illness and that 3,000 of them will die.

The culprits of these illnesses are many. They include the notorious norovirus, Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, and Campylobacter.

We usually know something is wrong when vomiting and diarrhea start. Some people though may have whole body organ failure. Those who are most susceptible to the worst of this would be young children, pregnant women, adults over 65 and people with weakened immune systems.

Most healthy people can ride out the vomiting and diarrhea if they remain hydrated and they are relatively healthy. The CDC states if your temperature measured orally is over 101.5, if you have blood in your stool, if the vomiting prevents you from keeping down fluids, if you have signs of dehydration including decreased urination, dry mouth and dizzy feeling when you stand up or if you have diarrhea that lasts more than three days, a visit with your healthcare provider is in order.

The CDC reminds us to think about how germs get into our foods and to take steps to protect yourself and your family.

The first line of defense is to CLEAN. Wash your hands and your food preparation areas often. CDC says germs can survive in many places around your kitchen including your hands, utensils, and cutting boards. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water.

The second line of defense is SEPARATE. CDC reminds us to not cross-contaminate. Even after we have washed our hands and preparation surfaces, raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can still spread germs to ready to eat foods unless you keep them separated.

The third line of defense is COOKING. You must be sure to cook foods to the correct temperature to ensure that the germs are killed. Consider using a food thermometer to ensure that food is cooked to a safe internal temperature. The CDC recommends:

  • 145°F for whole beef, veal, and lamb, and fresh pork and ham (allowing the meat to cool for three minutes before carving or consuming) and for fin fish.
  • 160°F for ground beef, veal, pork, lamb and for egg dishes.
  • 165°F for all poultry, including ground chicken and ground turkey, stuffing, leftovers and casseroles.

The last line of defense is to CHILL. CDC says to keep your refrigerator below 40°F and to refrigerate food promptly. Germs can grow in many foods within two hours unless you refrigerate them and during the summer heat cut that time down to one hour.

Let us resolve to stay healthy and to not let foodborne illnesses rain on our parades. Do check out the CDC Web site for more information and video clips on this and other health subjects.

Dr. Veita Bland is a board certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on North Carolina A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays. Email Dr. Bland at