Summer is great for outdoor activities. It’s ideal for beach parties, picnics, and all kinds of gatherings. But the hot weather is not always good for food. The latter may be contaminated or spoil easily because of the warm temperature. This makes food poisoning a possibility for everyone.
Headlines taken from the Manila Bulletin in the past few months prove this. In Morong, Bataan, about 300 people, mostly students, were downed by sandwiches that were bought from a restaurant near the municipal hall last March 3, 2018. Many of the victims collapsed and experienced nausea, stomach cramps, and dehydration.
In Davao, about 130 students and officials who attended two separate sports events in Mati and Tagum fell ill last February 16 and 17 after consuming spoiled food. The victims reportedly ate the same food that had been served the previous night and the venues didn’t have the proper storage facilities.
Earlier, on February 10, at least 68 students who attended a convention organized by the Department of Education in Cebu City got sick after eating stewed squid and tuna sandwiches. They suffered from stomach cramps, diarrhea, and frequent vomiting.
The above incidents clearly show the dangers of food poisoning or foodborne illness that can strike anyone anytime anywhere. This is caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites or their toxins that contaminate food while the latter is being prepared or handled.
Depending on the cause of the problem, the symptoms of food poisoning are fever, nausea, vomiting, bloody or watery diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. They may appear a few hours after eating contaminated food and may last for hours or days. In others, these may show up days or even weeks later.
If symptoms persist and are severe, see a doctor immediately to avoid dehydration and death. This happens when the body loses a lot of water, including essential minerals and salts. It can be a problem in the elderly, infants, and people with chronic diseases like diabetes and AIDS who don’t drink a lot of fluids.
Be wary of extreme pain, diarrhea that lasts for more than three days, bloody vomit or stools, and a high fever. Warning signs include a dry mouth, little or no urination, excessive thirst, weakness, and dizziness.
Tips and Tricks
To prevent food poisoning, clean your hands with warm, soapy water before and after handling or preparing food. Hot, soapy water should be used to wash utensils, cutting boards, and other surfaces.
Don’t mix raw meat, fish, and poultry with ready-to-eat foods while shopping, preparing, or storing food to prevent cross-contamination. This is the transfer of harmful organisms from one surface to another.
Use a food thermometer while cooking to ensure that food is cooked properly. The correct temperature for cooking ground beef is 160 F (71.1 C); steaks, roasts, and chops, such as lamb and pork, should be at least 145 F (62.8 C); while chicken is okay at 165 F (73.9 C).
Perishable foods have to be refrigerated as soon as possible. Do this within two hours after buying or preparing them. If the room temperature is hot, refrigeration should be done in an hour.
Never thaw food at room temperature, but defrost it in the refrigerator. If you use a microwave for this, cook food immediately after it has thawed.
What to Avoid
Because food poisoning can be life-threatening for kids, pregnant women, seniors, and individuals with weak immune systems, these people should avoid raw foods, unpasteurized milk, milk products, and juices, and uncooked hot dogs, luncheon meats, and deli meats.
If you’re not sure whether a certain food has been prepared, served, or stored safely, don’t think twice about throwing it. You won’t save money by eating spoiled food and something that has been left at room temperature for a long time may be contaminated. You can’t fix this by cooking so get rid of it. The food in question may look and smell fine, but you can never be sure so don’t take chances.
National Press Club and Philippine Dental Association awardee George Nava True II is the author of three health books based on his popular medical column that has been running for over 30 years. For inquiries, email email@example.com or text 09331366645.