May 22, 2000 -- Any food can be contaminated with bacteria from unclean
surfaces, food handlers who don't wash their hands, or improper preparation.
Food items in the following four categories are the ones most likely to make
you and your family sick.
Ground meats: Hamburger and ground meats of all kinds are very susceptible
to bacterial contamination. One of the worst culprits is the E. coli
0157:H7 bacteria, which can produce a deadly toxin. To prevent infection, cook
all hamburger thoroughly to a temperature of 160 degrees. The center should
never be pink. Don't use the same plate for raw hamburgers and cooked ones.
Don't let the juices from raw meat drip onto prepared foods while shopping or
in the refrigerator. Always wash hands, surfaces, and utensils with hot soapy
water after they are in contact with raw meat.
Chicken and turkey: Raw or undercooked poultry can be contaminated with
Campylobacter or Salmonella, both common causes of
food-transmitted infections. Wash hands, preparation surfaces, and utensils
with hot, soapy water before and after handling raw poultry. Don't let raw
poultry juices drip onto prepared foods while shopping or in the refrigerator.
Cook all poultry products thoroughly to a temperature of 180 degrees in the
thigh and 170 degrees in the breast. If you don't have a thermometer, make sure
there is no pink left inside and the juices run clear. Warm temperatures allow
Salmonella bacteria to grow, so always serve poultry hot and refrigerate
Eggs: Salmonella can also be transmitted by eggs. The best way to
protect yourself from Salmonella is to cook your eggs thoroughly. Keep
eggs refrigerated, discard cracked or dirty eggs, and eat eggs promptly after
cooking. Only eat foods that contain raw eggs, such as eggnog or Caesar salads,
if pasteurized eggs are used. Refrigerate leftover egg dishes and anything
containing mayonnaise immediately. Wash hands and cooking utensils with soap
and water after contact with raw eggs.
Fresh Produce: Always wash fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly. They may
have been contaminated with Salmonella or E. coli 0157:H7 by the
many people who handle them between the farm and your kitchen. Even if you plan
to peel or cook fruits or vegetables, it's a good idea to wash them as soon as
you bring them home from the market.
Sue Licher is a freelance writer from Cedar Rapids, Iowa,
where she lives with her husband Mark and whichever of their kids happens to be
back in the nest for the moment. She has written about health, energy
conservation, business marketing, and other subjects for a variety of
publications, television programs, and web sites.
You can get food poisoning after eating food contaminated by viruses or bacteria.
Other types of food poisoning can be caused by parasites or exposures to toxins or chemical agents.
Food poisoning causes anything from mild to severe acute discomfort and may leave you temporarily dehydrated.
Mild cases may last only a few hours or days, but more serious types, such as botulism or certain forms of chemical or toxin poisoning, are severe and possibly life-threatening unless you get medical...