While handling food carefully is important year-round, it commands a greater attention during the summer. The reason is as important to understand as the general message. Foodborne illness occurrences do in fact increase during the summer. CDC estimates that each year roughly one in six Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne illnesses. These include illnesses like Salmonella, E.coli O157, Listeria, Norovirus, and Campylobacter — diseases that cause a variety of symptoms. The symptoms can include, but are not limited to vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stool, nausea, headache, stomach cramping, fever, and chills.
There is more than one reason for the increase in prevalence of foodborne illness in the summer. The foodborne bacteria that potentially causes symptoms, can be present in the soil, air, water, in people, and animals, grow faster in warm temperatures, especially 90-110 degrees Fahrenheit. Further, the moisture that bacteria needs to thrive, is readily available in the humid, hot conditions of the summer. With the perfect conditions for the bacteria, they can multiply and therefore become more likely to cause illness.
Beyond the suitable conditions of the bacteria, the warm weather becomes more suitable for people. The conditions make it more likely for us to spend time outside — at fairs, festivals, pools, barbecues, picnics and sporting events. The common factor amongst those examples is usually a lack of kitchen and the benefits of proper temperature and storage of food that come with it. It becomes important to follow the necessary steps to remain healthy.
So, as you venture out to the fun events of summer, here are guidelines to abide by to prevent foodborne illness:
• Wash hands and surfaces often
• No cross-contaminatiom. Avoid contact between raw meat or meat juices and ready-to-eat foods; wash any plates, utensils or surfaces that came in contact with raw meat or poultry before using them again.
• Cook to safe (correct) temperatures. Cook food long enough and to a high enough temperature to kill off bacteria.
Swim, walk, fly:
• Foods that swim (fish, seafood) should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit
• Foods that walk (beef, pork, lamb) to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit
• Foods that fly (chicken, duck) to 165 degrees Fahrenheit
• Refrigerate food — keep cold foods cold
• Do not let food sit out for more than 2 hours (no more than 1 hour on temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit)
• When in doubt, throw it out
In order to protect yourself further, here are some more helpful tips for the many outdoor events of summer like fairs and festivals:
Factors to notice when buying from a vendor. Make sure they have a clean workstation, a sink for hand-washing, gloves for workers serving and handling food, refrigeration for raw ingredients.
Wash hands after playing games/going on a ride, eating food, before eating/drinking, after changing diapers or handling soiled clothing.
If there’s nowhere to wash hands, bring hand sanitizers or disposable wipes.
With the harsh winters endured by Ohioans, it is important we all take in the fun the summer season provides. Avoiding foodborne illness by utilizing the guidelines allows us to maximize our time in the sun and enjoy the warm weather we all deserve.
Premal Bhatt is the epidemiologist at Madison County-London City Health District and can be reached at 740-852-3065, ext. 1520.