| Tue, Sep 23, 2014 @ 09:00 AM

Follow Four Simple Steps to Protect Against Food Poisoning

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

food poisoningEach year, one in six Americans gets food poisoning by consuming contaminated foods or beverages.The symptoms of food poisoning range from mild to severe and can include abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and dehydration to double vision, speech difficulty and death, depending on what type of food poisoning you have.

Examples of known pathogens that can cause illness, hospitalization and death include:

Norovirus: Spreads primarily from one infected person to another, often through contaminated food or water. Infected kitchen workers can contaminate food if they have the virus on their hands.

Salmonella, nontyphoidal: Found on raw meats, poultry, eggs, milk, seafood, yeast, coconut, pasta and chocolate.

Clostridium perfringens: Raw meat and poultry. It can survive in conditions with very little or no oxygen.

Campylobacter: Found in raw or undercooked meat, particularly chicken. Also found in other foods that have been contaminated by the drippings of raw contaminated chicken.

Staphylococcus aureus: Found on meats, poultry, egg products, tuna, mayonnaise-based salads and cream-filled pastries that have been left too long at room temperature.

E-coli: Usually found in meat, especially ground beef, that has not been thoroughly cooked. Also found in sprouts, lettuce, salami, unpasteurized milk and juice, and swimming in or drinking sewage-contaminated water.

Clostridium botulinum: These bacteria produce toxin/spores that are heat resistant and can survive in foods that are incorrectly or minimally processed, including sausages, meat products, canned vegetables/foods (especially home-canned) and seafood.

Here are four simple steps to food safety.

1. Clean

Bacteria can survive in many places around your kitchen, including your hands, utensils and cutting boards. To help eliminate illness, be sure to:

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water before and after handling food.
  • Rinse produce before storing or eating it.
  • Clean cutting boards, knives, countertops, sink and faucet handles.

2. Separate

Help prevent cross-contamination of different food groups or between raw and ready-to-eat foods by:

  • Using separate cutting boards and utensils for produce, meat, poultry, seafood and eggs
  • Packing meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs in a separate grocery bag
  • Using a separate platter for cooked meat from the platter used for raw meat
  • Separating meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from all other foods in the fridge
  • Keeping the juices from raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from coming into contact with ready-to-eat foods in the fridge

3. Cook

Cooked food is safe only after the bacteria have been killed by heating to the proper temperature for the proper amount of time. To do this, you must:

  • Use a food thermometer.
  • Cook egg yolks until firm.
  • Microwave food to 165˚F or higher.
  • Keep food hot (140˚F) in between cooking and serving.

4. Chill

Bacteria that cause food poisoning multiply the quickest between 40˚F and 140˚F. Cold temperatures will slow this growth.  It’s important to chill food promptly by doing the following:

  • Refrigerate perishable foods within two hours.
  • Divide leftovers into smaller portions to speed cool-down in the fridge.
  • Thaw foods in the fridge, in cold water or in the microwave rather than on the counter.

Don’t take chances with your health. When in doubt, throw it out.

For more information, watch Recipes for Disaster for what not to do.

For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.

Sources: CDC.gov: Foodborne Illness, Foodborne Disease and Estimates of Foodborne Illness in the United States


Partnership for Food Safety Education: Learn about safe food handling.

Food Safety: Get more info from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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