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Friday, February 1, 2008

Bacteria and Foodborne Illness: What You Need to Know

(Brief Awareness Overview)

Did you know that bacteria in food can make you sick?

What is foodborne illness?

Foodborne illness comes from eating food or drinking beverages contaminated with bacteria, parasites, or viruses. Foodborne illness can cause symptoms that range from an upset stomach to more serious problems, including

  • diarrhea
  • fever
  • vomiting
  • abdominal cramps
  • dehydration

Harmful bacteria in raw or undercooked food are the most common cause of foodborne illness.

What other problems can foodborne illness cause?

Most cases of foodborne illness are mild, but some can cause serious health problems. Infection with a certain strain of the bacteria E. coli can lead to a rare disorder, mainly in children, that can cause the kidneys and other organs to stop working. Other types of bacteria in food can cause miscarriage or death.

Who is likely to get foodborne illness?

Anyone can get sick from contaminated food, but some people are more vulnerable to infection. Those most likely to get foodborne illness are

  • people who don’t have a healthy immune system
  • young children
  • pregnant women and their fetuses
  • older adults

How can I protect myself from foodborne illness?

Proper food preparation can prevent most cases of foodborne illness. Some ways to prevent harmful bacteria from growing in food are to

  • cook food long enough and at a high enough temperature to kill bacteria
  • refrigerate prepared food within 2 hours, before bacteria multiply
  • wash all raw fruits and vegetables under running water
  • never defrost food on the kitchen counter—use the refrigerator, running water, or the microwave
  • wash your hands, utensils, and surfaces with hot soapy water before and after preparing food

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