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Tips to avoid food poisoning this holiday season

Staff Reports • Dec 5, 2017 at 10:42 PM

Preparing a holiday feast can begin as soon one gets home from the grocery store.  

But to serve family and friends a delicious meal that keeps them coming back for more, food safety guidelines need to be part of the recipe.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, each year an estimated 48 million people, about one in six, contract a foodborne illness. About 128,000 require hospitalization, and 3,000 cases are fatal.

“The most common calls that the Tennessee Poison Center receives this time of year involve children coming into contact with raw poultry or uncooked baking mix, putting them at risk for exposure to campylobacter or salmonella.  It’s pretty scary to look over and see your toddler chewing on a raw piece of chicken,” said Justin Loden, certified specialist in poison information at the Tennessee Poison Center.

Symptoms of food poisoning include: nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. It can take only a few hours, or possibly days for these symptoms to appear, depending on the pathogen involved. 

“When preparing meals, remember to keep young children out of the kitchen, and limit the spread of germs by washing your hands, kitchen surfaces, utensils and cutting boards frequently with hot soapy water,” said Loden.

Here are some other important, yet simple, food safety precautions to keep in mind:

PREPARE

• Wash hands after handling uncooked food and before touching or eating other foods.

• Do not wash eggs, meat or poultry as this can spread harmful bacteria.

• Keep meat, poultry, seafood and eggs separate from all other foods.

• Use the microwave, cold water or refrigerator to defrost your frozen meat or poultry.

COOK

• Use a quick-response thermometer to make sure foods are thoroughly cooked or reheated.

• The safest way to cook stuffing is outside of the turkey in a casserole dish. However, if you cook stuffing inside the turkey, stuff the turkey just before cooking, and make sure the stuffing reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees.

STORE

• The bacteria that cause food poisoning multiply quickest between 40 and 140 degrees. Refrigerate leftovers promptly within two hours at 40 degrees or below to reduce bacterial growth.

• After eating, take the remaining meat off the turkey and store in the refrigerator.  An entire carcass placed in the refrigerator won’t cool down quickly enough.

• Avoid cross-contamination by completely and securely covering foods in the refrigerator.

• Consume or freeze leftovers within three to four days.

Anyone who experiences symptoms of food poisoning should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. See a health care provider if there are symptoms that are severe, including:

• high fever with a temperature more than 101.5 degrees, orally.

• blood in stools or vomit.

• frequent vomiting that prevents keeping liquids down.

• signs of dehydration such as marked decrease in urination, a very dry mouth or throat or feeling dizzy when standing up.

• diarrhea that lasts more than three days.

Anyone who suspects he or she has food poisoning should call Tennessee Poison Center for treatment advice. The poison help toll-free number is 800-222-1222. All calls are free and confidential.

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