Keep food poisoning at bay this holiday season

Keep food poisoning at bay this holiday season

A happy holiday can quickly turn sour when food poisoning joins the fun.

Experts at the Rutgers New Jersey Poison Control Center offer some tips for safely thawing, preparing and storing food, as well as avoiding problems with alcohol and drugs.

“Forgetting food safety is a recipe for disaster,” said Diane Calello, executive and medical director of the poison control center in the department of emergency medicine at Rutgers School of Medicine in New Jersey.

“Do not prepare food if you have any respiratory illness or infection, as this puts your guests at risk of becoming ill. No matter how busy your kitchen is during the holidays, always be aware of the risks of improper food handling,” she said in a statement. Rutgers.

Food poisoning is not a small problem. Each year, about 48 million Americans become ill, causing 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But here are some tips from the poison center to avoid it:

  • For starters, remember to clean, separate, cook and cool.
  • Wash hands and surfaces frequently with warm water and soap while preparing food.
  • Use only water, not soap, to clean fruits and vegetables.
  • Do not allow food to be served raw to come into contact with uncooked poultry, meat or seafood during grocery shopping or in the refrigerator. Use one cutting board for produce and bread and another for raw meat or seafood.
  • While your refrigerator should be set below 40° Fahrenheit, a food thermometer can help ensure that cooked food reaches a safe internal temperature.
  • Frozen food should never be thawed on the counter, but in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave, as bacteria, parasites and viruses can grow rapidly at room temperature.
  • Perishable food should be refrigerated within two hours.
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The effects of food poisoning can be felt within hours and can include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea and fever. It is especially risky for small children, pregnant women and those with a weakened immune system.

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It’s also important to understand how to drink safely and recognize alcohol poisoning, the poison control center advises. Be aware of how much alcohol you’re actually consuming, not just the number of drinks, to avoid drinking more than is safe.

Certain holiday foods may also be unsafe for pets. These include chocolate, sweets, bread and dough, leftover fatty meats, grapes, raisins and currants, sugar-free products and cocoa. Artificial sweeteners like xylitol can cause serious illness, as can food-like items like batteries, small magnets, vape and nicotine products, drugs and recreational drugs, and prescription drugs.

More information:
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more information about food poisoning.

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