Turmeric plant in bloom.

Have you ever had a foodborne illness? Would you know if you had?

An individual holds his hands over his stomach, indicating pain, with food on a nearby counter. [CREDIT: pixabay.com]Foodborne illness symptoms can mimic the flu, with upset stomach, fever and diarrhea as common issues. So, it’s important to note that we are all vulnerable and anyone can be a victim of a food pathogen. In fact, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a 2011 report that estimated one in every six Americans—or, roughly 48 million people—suffers from a foodborne illness each year. The report adds that 128,000 of those cases lead to hospitalization, while 3,000 Americans die each year from a foodborne illness.

Bacteria are the reason for many of the foodborne illness cases. Usually, these bacteria spread and thrive due to improper food handling. I recently shared a blog series in which we looked at the four basic principles of proper food handling to help prevent or eliminate this as an issue: Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.

But, there are other things that can contaminate our food, such as viruses, parasites, toxic molds, and even household chemicals like cleaning supplies stored near food and food preparation areas. Following food safety principles can better safeguard you and your family from these contaminants. To learn more on how to protect your food, visit www.fightbac.org.

While a foodborne illness can affect anyone, there are certain population groups more susceptible to this problem. These higher-risk groups include: children under the age of 5, older adults, people with a weakened immune system, pregnant women, cancer patients, and people with autoimmune diseases. But, some foodborne pathogens can pose a serious—even grave—threat to all persons. 

Thankfully, information on food safety is constantly emerging and evolving. If you are in a higher-risk group, follow the most current information on food safety and talk with your healthcare provider. You can also visit www.foodsafety.gov for more information.

In the next blog post, we will discuss some best practices for food handling to become a wiser, safer shopper.

by Maria Portelos-Rometo

Source: UF/IFAS Pest Alert

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