Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Life You Save May Be Your Own

I present the following as a public service announcement, and maybe a wakeup call to all those who think their digestive problems after eating are just a case of pigging out. Maybe, most likely not. Please, I KNOW IT'S A LONG POST--READ IT ANYWAY. Quite possibly the life you save may be your own.

The frum lifestyle is sometimes one that could, c"v, cause great sakonos nefoshos. Fire, particularly candles, is a part of every Shabbos and every yom tov and has lead to frum Jews being more likely to be treated in the regional burn centers than non frum or non jewish people. Add in blechs and hot water urns and you have a possible recipe for disaster. Certainly safety precautions must be taken.

There is another area that we are also somewhat lax in. This is food safety. Leisurely meals taking a long time are quite normal. Weddings, with a smorgasbord called for only one hour frequently go for close to two hours. Tables are set ready with condiments and side dishes awaiting the guests. Sometimes those dishes sit out for hours. Hostesses don't want to get busy in the kitchen so they bring out the platters of food to the kitchen counters and leave them there until the guests go home. Shabbos meals frequently start getting cooked in the morning and are first eaten Friday night, with no refrigeration of what was cooked.

School children and working adults frequently take lunch from home. Said lunch is made, packed and out the door with the future eater by about 7:30 in the morning. Lunch is frequently not until 12:00. School lunches have no place to be refrigerated. Mostly working people's lunches also have no place to be refrigerated.

Women go out shopping for groceries. Frequently they have many stops to make. Raw food that is purchased sits in car trunks, sometimes for hours. Raw food and ready prepared food mingle in the bags.

Picnics and barbeques are a fun thing to have. And the food sits out for hours while everyone has a good time. Hot foods are left out to cool at room temperature before being refrigerated.

A time bomb, all of it.

"Food borne illness is an ever-present threat that can be prevented with proper care and handling of food products. It is estimated that between 24 and 81 million cases of food borne diarrhea disease occur each year in the United States, costing between $5 billion and $17 billion in medical care and lost productivity" (Texas Agricultural Extension Service).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 76 million people suffer from foodborne illnesses each year in the United States, accounting for 325,000 hospitalizations and more than 5,000 deaths.

"Food poisoning tends to occur at picnics, school cafeterias, and large social functions. These are situations where food may be left unrefrigerated too long or food preparation techniques are not clean. Food poisoning often occurs from eating undercooked meats, dairy products, or food containing mayonaise (like coleslaw or potato salad) that have sat out too long.

Food poisoning can be caused by:
Staph aureus
E. coli enteritis
Mushroom poisoning
Bacillus cereus
Fish poisoning

Infants and elderly people have the greatest risk for food poisoning. You are also at higher risk if you have a serious medical condition, like kidney disease or diabetes, a weakened immune system, or you travel outside of the U.S. to areas where there is more exposure to organisms that cause food poisoning. Pregnant and breastfeeding women have to be especially careful.

The symptoms from the most common types of food poisoning generally start within 2 to 6 hours of eating the food responsible. That time may be longer (even a number of days) or shorter, depending on the toxin or organism responsible for the food poisoning. The possible symptoms include:
Nausea and vomiting
Abdominal cramps
Diarrhea (may be bloody)
Fever and chills
Weakness (may be serious and lead to respiratory arrest, as in the case of botulism)
Headache Botulism is a very serious form of food poisoning that can be fatal. It can come from improper home canning

When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your doctor if:
You have diarrhea and are unable to drink fluids due to nausea or vomiting.
You are on diuretics and have diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting.
Diarrhea lasts for more than 2 to 3 days.
There is blood in your stools.
You have a fever over 101°F.

Call 911 if:
You have signs of dehydration (thirsty, dizzy, lightheaded, faint).
Bleeding is excessive or your stools are maroon or black.
You are short of breath or having trouble breathing.
Your heart is racing, pounding, or skipping.
You may have poisoning from mushrooms, fish, or botulism.
You have any nervous system symptoms like weakness, double vision, difficulty speaking, or paralysis.
You have trouble swallowing.

To prevent food poisoning, take the following steps when preparing food:
Carefully wash your hands and clean dishes and utensils.
Use a thermometer when cooking. Cook beef to at least 160°F, poultry to at least 180°F, and fish to at least 140°F.
DO NOT place cooked meat or fish back onto the same plate or container that held the raw meat, unless the container has been thoroughly washed.
Promptly refrigerate any food you will not be eating right away. Keep the refrigerator set to around 40°F and your freezer at or below 0°F.
DO NOT eat meat, poultry, or fish that has been refrigerated uncooked for longer than 1 to 2 days.
DO NOT use outdated foods, packaged food with a broken seal, or cans that are bulging or have a dent.
DO NOT use foods that have an unusual odor or a spoiled taste.

Other steps to take:
If you take care of young children, wash your hands often and dispose of diapers carefully so that bacteria can't spread to other surfaces or people.
If you make canned food at home, be sure to follow proper canning techniques to prevent botulism.
DO NOT feed honey to children under 1 year of age.
DO NOT eat wild mushrooms.
When traveling where contamination is more likely, eat only hot, freshly cooked food. Drink water only if it's been boiled. DO NOT eat raw vegetables or unpeeled fruit.
DO NOT eat shellfish exposed to red tides.
If you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system, DO NOT eat soft cheeses, especially imported from countries outside the U.S.
If other people may have eaten the food that made you sick, let them know. If you think the food was contaminated when you bought it from a store or restaurant, tell the store and your local health department.
Source: MedLine Plus, NIH

How can food poisoning be prevented?Following these rules can prevent most food poisoning cases:
Wash your hands! Wash them before, during and after food preparation. Use soap and warm water and wash for 20 seconds. Wash after touching raw meat, fish or poultry. Wash your hands after every trip to the bathroom. Washing is the most important thing you can do to prevent food poisoning.
Use hot, soapy water to wash cutting boards, utensils and anything else that was used to prepare food.
Use a diluted bleach solution to clean cutting boards and countertops after food preparation.
To clean kitchen sponges and dishcloths, rinse them in water, squeeze out the excess water and microwave at full power for 60 seconds. Be careful in removing hot items from microwave so you don't burn yourself.
After handling raw meat, fish or poultry, do not reuse the same utensil or plate. Bacteria from the raw juices will contaminate other food.
Do not use a sponge or dishcloth to clean surfaces that have touched raw meat, fish or poultry. Use soap, water and a disposable paper towel.
Wash all fruits and vegetables well before eating.
Cook all food thoroughly.
Taste food only when it is thoroughly cooked. Use a clean spoon each time.
Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. If food is allowed to remain at room temperature for two hours or longer, bacteria can multiply and cause food poisoning.
Refrigerate all leftovers soon after meals.
Hot food does not have to be cooled before placing it in the refrigerator.
After shopping, refrigerate frozen food as soon as possible. If thawed, use immediately. Do not refreeze.
Defrost meats and poultry in the refrigerator or the microwave.
When camping, don't drink stream water. No matter how clear the water looks, it can still contain dangerous bacteria and other organisms.
Don't buy or use food from dented, bulging or rusted cans. If you have a can with a dent on the seam, throw it away. Don't even open it. Contaminated food may or may not smell, taste or look bad. Don't taste suspicious foods. Don't ask anyone else to taste it either.

Throw out any leftovers that have been at room temperature for more than two hours or in hot weather for more than an hour.

Even a tiny amount of contaminated food can cause severe illness. If you have any doubt about the safety of the food, throw it out! Don't give possibly spoiled food to pets: They can get sick from bad food, too. Not even the most expensive food is worth a case of food poisoning, human or animal. Dispose of potentially tainted food by placing it down the garbage disposal or wrapping tightly and placing in the trash.

How long can foods be stored?
Refrigerated steaks and roasts should be used within three to four days after purchase.
Ground meats, fresh poultry and raw fish should be used within one to two days after purchase.
Milk, cream, cottage cheese and cream cheese are good for a week after opening.
Hard cheeses that are tightly wrapped are good for two to three months.
Eggs are good for three to four weeks. Keep them refrigerated.
Cooked or uncooked vegetables are good in the refrigerator for three to five days.
Berries are only good for about three to five days in the refrigerator before they mold or rot.
Bread, cake and cookies (or anything made from a batter with yeast or wheat) should be used within a week to avoid mold.
Baked goods will last longer (two weeks) if refrigerated.
Deli meats should be used within four days after opening the package.
Leftover meats are good for three to five days.
Leftover chicken, gravy, sauce, chicken or tuna salads and turkey pies are only good for one to two days.
Mustard, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and other condiments should be used within a year of opening the container.
Mayonnaise, once opened, is good for two months.
Open bottles of salad dressing are good for three months.
Ketchup, jams, jelly and peanut butter are good for six months.
Opened jars of salsa should be discarded after a month.
Frozen food is good for a year if tightly wrapped and stored consistently at 0½ F.
If you cannot remember when a food was placed in the refrigerator, throw it out. Many people do keep their food longer than the above guidelines. If you keep your food longer, make sure you check it each time to see that it has not turned moldy, slimy, stinky, rancid or otherwise rotten. Always check the food BEFORE you taste it.

How can I keep food stored safely?

Keep refrigerator temperature between 35-40½ F and freezer temperatures at 0½ F or lower.
Space food items in your refrigerator and freezer so cold air can freely circulate.
Wrap raw meat, fish or poultry in separate plastic bags. Place them on a plate or tray on the lowest shelf in the refrigerator to keep leaking juices from dripping on other foods.
Freeze fresh meat, fish or poultry if they are not going to be used in the next couple days. Rewrap meat packages in aluminum foil or freezer paper to keep the meat airtight.
Pack perishable foods in coolers with ice or ice packs when cleaning or defrosting your refrigerator or freezer.
Use plenty of ice in the picnic chest to keep foods such as egg salad, potato salad, macaroni salad or any dishes made with mayonnaise or cream cold. Don't leave these foods in the sun.
After holiday meals, remember to place the leftover turkey in the refrigerator. Do not leave the turkey on the counter or in the oven overnight.
Do not leave stuffing in the turkey when you refrigerate it.
Source: California Poison Control System


Anonymous said...

Not sure which is worse on a Monday morning--to face another posting that tells me what I've been doing wrong about shidduchim or to face a posting that tells me I've been playing russian roulete with my food. And yes, my sandwich is now in the refrigerator instead of molding in my desk drawer. Actually, thanks for the info.

Anonymous said...

So husbands who stand over the stove top and eat from a pot that is still cooking using a clean spoon for each bite are actually less likely to get food poisoning then husbands who sit at a table and have their food get cold while they talk to their wife?