Food Poisoning – How to Keep Your Family Safe

Source: Tatiana Kostareva - 123RF

Labor Day means more eating, more visits to restaurants, and the inevitable cases of food poisoning.

Americans eat more chicken every year than any other meat. Chicken can be a nutritious choice, but according to the CDC, raw chicken is often contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria and sometimes with Salmonella and Clostridium perfringens bacteria.

Hundreds of cases of food poisoning have been reported over the past few years, including, to name a few:

  • In 2017, 30 visitors to a science fair fell ill after suspected food poisoning;
  • 70 employees became sick at a holiday party in NM in 2016, from bacillus cereus or clostridium perfingens found in raw meat or poultry, and
  • In San Francisco, 3 people died and five were sickened after a 2016 Thanksgiving party.
  • In 2015, EMTs received multiple reports of people in a homeless shelter vomiting, and used a bus to transport those sickened to area hospitals.

If you eat undercooked chicken or other foods or beverages contaminated by raw chicken or its juices, you can get a foodborne illness, which is also called food poisoning.

The main concern in food poisoning is usually from dehydration or body fluid loss from vomiting and diarrhea. It is very easy for a child to become dehydrated.

If food poisoning is suspected it is important to drink plenty of fluids, especially water. Do not take anything to stop the vomiting or diarrhea unless recommended by a physician.

Medications for these symptoms can actually prolong them. 

If chicken is on your menu, follow these tips when shopping, cooking, and eating out to help prevent food poisoning:

  • Place chicken in a disposable bag before putting in your shopping cart or refrigerator to prevent raw juices from getting onto other foods.
  • Wash hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds before and after handling chicken.
  • Do not wash raw chicken. During washing, chicken juices can spread in the kitchen and contaminate other foods, utensils, and countertops.
  • Use a separate cutting board for raw chicken.
  • Never place cooked food or fresh produce on a plate, cutting board, or other surface that previously held raw chicken.
  • Wash cutting boards, utensils, dishes, and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing chicken and before you prepare the next item.
  • Use a food thermometerExternalexternal icon to make sure chicken is cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165°F.
  • If cooking frozen raw chicken in a microwavable meal, handle it as you would fresh raw chicken. Follow cooking directions carefully to prevent food poisoning.
  • If you think the chicken you are served at a restaurant or anywhere else is not fully cooked, send it back for more cooking.
  • Refrigerate or freeze leftover chicken within 2 hours (or within 1 hour if the temperature outside is higher than 90°F).

The CDC recommends: IF IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT. Foods that have dangerous bacteria in them may not taste, smell, or look different. Any food that has been left out too long may be dangerous to eat, even if it looks OK.