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Foodborne diseases peak in summer: Here's how you can stay safe

home remedies for diarrhea

Foodborne diseases are caused by consuming contaminated food or drink. You can prevent yourself from getting these diseases by following four simple steps. Read on to know more

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Updated : April 9, 2020 1:38 PM IST

Nobody knows how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last, or if the rising mercury level can kill the virus. So just keep following the preventive measures to stay safe. In addition to practising hand hygiene and social distancing, be careful about how you cook and eat food to avoid another danger- foodborne diseases.

Yes, foodborne illnesses are more prevalent during summer months. One of the reasons is that bacteria multiply faster in warmer temperatures. Warmer temperature (between 90 to 110 F or 32 to 43 C) and higher humidity are ideal for bacterial growth.

Foodborne diseases area caused by consuming food or drink, contaminated by microbes and toxic substances. There are over 250 known foodborne diseases and majority of these are caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Foodborne microbes and toxins enter the body through the gastrointestinal tract, where it usually causes the first symptoms. Common symptoms of foodborne diseases include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea.

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You can prevent yourself from getting foodborne diseases by following these four simple steps:

Wash your hands and surfaces frequently

Unclean hands and surfaces can quickly spread germs and cause foodborne diseases. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water before and after handling food. Follow this step after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and handling pets as well.

Don't cross contaminate

Cross-contamination during preparation and serving food is a main cause of foodborne illnesses. Microorganisms can transfer from raw to cooked food if you don't handle the food, kitchen tools and surfaces properly. When storing food in the fridge, wrap raw meats, poultry and fish securely and separately to keep their juices away from other food. Don't serve food on the same plate that previously held raw food until it is cleaned.

Cook food at safe temperatures

Food safety experts suggest that we should cook food at a high enough temperature and heat it for a long enough time to kill harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses. You may use a food thermometer to ensure the safety of meat, poultry, seafood and egg products. Partial cooking of food may allow bacteria to survive and multiply.

Follow the recommended safe internal temperatures for cooking raw meats and poultry:

  • Poultry: 165 F /74 C
  • Ground meats: 160 F /71 C
  • Beef, pork, lamb and veal: 145 F /63 C

Keep your fridge + freezer at the right temperature

Set your refrigerator and freezer at safe temperatures for food storage. It is 40 F for your fridge and 0 F for your freezer.

If you are keeping food at unsafe temperature, it can cause bacteria to grow to dangerous levels that can cause illness. When the temperature outside is above 90 F (32 C), don't leave the food out for more than one hour. At this temperature, food left out of refrigeration for more than two hours is not safe to eat. Put leftover perishables back on the refrigerator once you finish eating so they do not spoil or become unsafe to eat. Your leftovers in the fridge will last safely for four days maximum.

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