Don’t let food illness spoil summer plans

BC Centre for Disease Control has some advice to keep summer eating safe

As the B.C. summer passes into the second half with family picnics and neighbourhood barbecues, the BC Centre for Disease Control has some advice to keep summer eating safe.

It‘s estimated that 1,400 people in BC get sick from foodborne illness (food poisoning) every day, with many of these cases going unreported.

Summer time can be especially bad for these types of illnesses because bacteria can multiply quickly in the hot weather.

The symptoms of food poisoning include stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, and usually go away after one to three days.

However, some cases of food poisoning can result in severe complications, prolonged sickness and even death.

Preparing and handling food, especially outdoors, does present some additional food safety risks.  But with some planning and food safety know-how, the risks can be reduced.

Follow the four C’s of food safety:

CLEAN: wash hands for a minimum of 20 seconds; clean work surfaces and utensils often – especially after handling or preparing raw meat and poultry;

Don’t CROSS CONTAMINATE: avoid using the same utensils, plates or cutting board for raw meat and  cooked meat;

COOK: hamburgers to an internal temperature of 71°C (160°F), and chicken to an internal temperature of 74°C (165°F). Don’t just rely on how the meat “looks” – always use a meat thermometer when using the barbecue.

CHILL: refrigerate food and leftovers promptly. Do not leave any foods outside of the refrigerator or cooler for longer than two hours.

Facts:

According to recent Canadian population studies, up to four million cases of domestically acquired foodborne illness occur each year.

Research findings by the Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education show that despite the fact that a majority of adults feel confident they understand and follow safe food handling procedures, a sizeable number do not consistently follow certain safe food handling practices.

Some of the findings included:

Only 15 per cent of people consistently use a food thermometer. Using a food thermometer is critical – you can’t always tell food has been cooked properly by how it looks.

Only half of consumers reported washing their hands for 20 seconds, before and after handling food. Hands and surfaces need to be cleaned often to reduce the risk of food borne illness.

“Mild cases of food poisoning happen frequently, said Lynn Wilcott, food safety specialist, BC Centre for Disease Control.

“They don’t need to, and most cases of foodborne illness are preventable,” said Wilcott. “There are easy things we can do like washing our hands and cooking foods thoroughly which will significantly reduce the risk of food poisoning.”

More info:

BCCDC Food Safety information at: www.bccdc.ca/foodhealth/default.htm

Be Food Safe Canada at: www.befoodsafe.ca

– BC HealthFiles: www.healthlinkbc.ca/servicesresources/healthlinkbcfiles and use the search term “food.”