Keep summer gatherings free of food poisoning

Food poisoning can spoil summer picnics and cookouts but simple precautions can prevent it, says a state health official. 

Bacteria in food multiply faster whenever temperatures rise above 40 degrees,” said Bill Chalcraft, health protection administrator for the Department of Health. “That’s why handling and storing food safely is so important during hot weather.”  

In 2012, South Dakota reported 493 cases of the food-borne illnesses E. coli, Salmonella, and Campylobacter. To date in 2013, 157 cases of such illnesses have been reported. Food-borne illnesses often go unreported so the actual number of cases is likely higher. 

Mild or severe diarrhea, fever, vomiting and abdominal pain are common symptoms of food-borne illness. Most people will recover at home without medication but some people may need fluids to prevent dehydration.

Chalcraft recommended the following steps when cooking outdoors:

  • Start with hand-washing. Use moist disposable towelettes if soap and water aren’t available.
  • Keep raw foods separate from cooked foods. If a plate held raw meat, don’t use it again without first washing it in hot, soapy water.
  • Marinate foods in the refrigerator, not on the counter or outdoors, and don’t reuse marinade. For use as a sauce, set some aside before adding food.
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure food is cooked thoroughly. Cook hamburgers to 160 degrees and chicken to at least 165 degrees.
  • Keep hot food hot (140ºF or above) and cold food cold (40 degrees or below).
  • Refrigerate or freeze leftover food promptly. Don’t let perishable foods sit out longer than two hours; no more than one hour if temperatures are above 90 degress.

Learn more on the department Web site, http://doh.sd.gov/HealthProtection/.

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