When a child feels sick to his stomach accompanied by vomiting and diarrhea, most parents assume he’s come down with the “stomach flu.” But, there’s no such thing as a stomach flu. What most parents are describing is gastroenteritis caused by bacteria, virus, or a parasite. Kids are more susceptible to a foodborne illness because of their immature immune system, but they needn’t suffer because you can prevent them by taking simple precautions in the kitchen.
Why is it important to know about foodborne illnesses? Because they needlessly cause as many as 48 million of us here in the US to get sick every year. That’s a lot of missed school and work days. Plus for babies and pregnant women, a foodborne illness can be deadly.
What’s interesting is that Salmonella outbreaks have been reported in all 50 states, but the majority of the reported cases were in just four states – California, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona. Why all west coast states? No one knows for sure, but to help change those stats the USDA is asking me to share information about food safety so that we can get Washington off the list.
But Salmonella isn’t the only foodborne illness you can prevent. The USDA reports that a woman is more likely to contract Listeria monocytogenes and Toxoplasma gondii during pregnancy, and both can result in miscarriage or stillbirth even if the mother is symptom-free. If you’re pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, check out the Food Safety for Pregnant Women Webpage and if you have an infant in the home, please bookmark and read Protect Your Baby and Yourself from Listeriosis.
Protect Your Family from FoodBorne Illnesses in 4-Steps
So how do you protect yourself and your family from foodborne illnesses? At home, it’s easy. Proper cleaning and cooking of all raw meat will take care of most bacteria. But you can also do the following:
1Download, print, and post this Food Safe Families poster in the kitchen to remind you and the kids that there are just four steps to safer food: Clean, Separate, Cook & Chill. Plus it includes contact information for the FDA Food Safety Line.
2Do the same with this handy, Is it Done Yet? chart that gives the USDA recommended safe minimum internal temperatures for beef, chicken, turkey, eggs, and more.
3Invest in an accurate instant-read food thermometer and be sure to clean it after every use with soap and water, so you don’t infect the next dish you check with it.
4Download the USDA’s new FoodKeeper app that provides accurate information on food storage advice (the “smell test” is not a foolproof way to tell what’s safe to eat). The app is free, and you can download it at iTunes and Google Play.
Want more info? Visit FoodSafety.gov for up-to-date and credible food safety information and tips on how to make your kitchen and food prep as clean as possible so you can reduce the chance of foodborne illnesses in your home. No one likes to be sick, and preventing illnesses by following the four simple steps is easy for anyone. Let’s reduce those infection numbers all over the US, but especially here in Washington.