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Use extra caution with fresh food this summer
Remember "summer complaint?'
That's because the disease, usually diarrhea in infants, went away once we discovered it was caused by bacterial contamination of food associated with poor hygiene and refrigeration in the warm months.
Part of the recent "pink slime" controversy involved the use of a small amount of ammonia to disinfect that unfortunately nick-named product, officially called "lean, finely textured beef."
Most schools, naturally enough, chose not to order the product once given the choice -- what parent would want their child eating something called that? -- except for states where it is produced, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.
As a result, the cost of school lunches will go up and a nutritious source of protein will go to waste. Let's hope no other legitimate, healthy foods fall victim to bad public relations.
No one will argue against the benefits of fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables, but the Nebraska Regional Poison Center in Omaha warns that contamination or improper handling can lead to the rise of that old threat, "summer complaint."
Every year, one out of six Americans (48 million) will become ill from food-borne illnesses, according to the center, and in the last week, its nurses started to see alerts from across the country concerning recalls on lettuce, onions, sprouts and spinach.
Depending on the contaminate, food poisoning can develop quickly or slowly, and usual causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping and fever. Usually, it is not serious and most people start to feel better in 24 hours.
Studies show that if people would just wash their hands before preparing and handling food, nearly half of all food-borne illnesses could be avoided. Older adults, pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems and chronic illnesses are at a greater risk of developing food-borne illnesses.
The Poison Center offers the following tips for keeping safe this summer:
* Go to the farmers market early to avoid the produce that has been sitting out all morning.
* Try to buy produce that is in season.
* If possible, avoid the packaged produce. You have more control when selecting loose items.
* Buy only what you will use in a week.
* Don't purchase any produce that is moldy or bruised.
* If purchasing bagged produce -- buy as far from expiration date as possible.
* Refrigerate produce immediately when you return home.
* Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds before preparing food and especially after handling meat, seafood and poultry.
* Wash all vegetables and fruits immediately before eating.
* There is no need to purchase special washes or soap. Use tap water and gently rub the produce under running water. For produce such as melons or cucumbers -scrub with a clean produce brush.
* Use separate cutting boards -- one for meats and one for produce. It is suggested to use color coded ones to avoid confusion and discard old ones that have cracks or excessive knife scars on them.
Reusable grocery totes are eco-friendly and popular, but they are a breeding ground for bacteria. Only 1 out of 6 Americans wash these totes. Wash them with hot, soapy water. Store them in a dry, clean location -- not in the hot trunk of a car.
Call the Poison Center if you have any questions concerning food poisoning. The Poison Center is a free service to the community. Call 1-800-222-1222 to talk to a Registered Nurse immediately about all of your poisoning questions.