Keep food poisoning at bay this holiday season

By Cara Murez

health day reporter

TUESDAY, Nov. 22, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Happy holidays can quickly turn sour when food poisoning joins the party.

Experts at the Rutgers New Jersey Poison Control Center offer some tips for safely thawing, preparing and storing food, as well as avoiding alcohol and drug-related problems.

“Forgetting about food safety is a recipe for disaster,” said Diane Calello, executive and medical director of the Poison Center for the Department of Emergency Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

“Do not prepare food if you have a respiratory illness or infection, as this puts your guests at risk of becoming ill. No matter how busy your kitchen gets over the holidays, always remember the risks of improper food handling,” she said in a Rutgers press release.

Food poisoning is no small problem. It sickens about 48 million Americans every year, hospitalizing 128,000 people and killing 3,000, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But here are some tips from the poison control center on how to avoid it:

  • To start, don’t forget to clean, separate, cook and refrigerate.
  • Wash hands and surfaces often with warm water and soap while preparing food.
  • Use only water to clean fruits and vegetables, no soap.
  • Don’t let foods that will be served raw come into contact with uncooked poultry, meat or seafood while shopping or in the refrigerator. Use one cutting board for produce and bread, and another for raw meats or seafood.
  • While your refrigerator should be set below 40° Fahrenheit, a food thermometer can help ensure that cooked foods reach a safe internal temperature.
  • Frozen foods should never be thawed on the counter, but rather in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave because bacteria, parasites and viruses can grow rapidly at room temperature.
  • Perishable foods should be refrigerated within two hours.

The effects of food poisoning can be felt within hours and can include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea and fever. It is especially risky for young children, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.

It’s also important to understand how to drink safely and to recognize alcohol poisoning, advises the Poison Control Center. Be aware of how much alcohol you actually drink, not just the number of drinks, to avoid consuming more than is safe.

Some holiday foods can also be dangerous for pets. These include chocolate, candies, bread and dough, leftover fatty meat, grapes, raisins and currants, sugar-free products and cocoa. Artificial sweeteners like xylitol can cause serious illness, as can food-like items like button batteries, small magnets, vapes and nicotine products, medications and recreational and prescription drugs. .

More information

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on food poisoning.

SOURCE: Rutgers, press release, November 17, 2022

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