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Home » General Health

Supermarket food can make you sick. 7 Ways To Protect Your Family.

Article / Review by on September 20, 2011 – 1:57 pmNo Comments

Protect from Foodborne Bacteria

Attention surrounding outbreaks of Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes or other pathogenic bacteria has increased our awareness of the potential microbiological risks in food.

People expect food that they buy in supermarkets to be as free as possible from bacteria. However, none of the control measures currently in use can completely remove one hundred percent of the microorganisms present in food. That’s why good sanitation and careful food handling and preparation by everyone in the food system will always be necessary to prevent foodborne illness.

Tips to Keep Your Kitchen Clean
Always wash all food-contact surfaces and utensils with soap and hot water after each use. To kill bacteria, sanitize food-contact surfaces and utensils with a solution of 1-3 tablespoons of household chlorine bleach per gallon of water; let stand 2 minutes; rinse; air dry.

What Can We Do To Keep From Getting Sick?

Most foodborne illness can be prevented through some simple food handling and storage steps. All it takes is a little know-how.

It is important for consumers to think about food safety at each step, from shopping, to cooking, to cleaning, to storing leftovers to help avoid foodborne illness. The following are general rules for handling food safely in your kitchen:

When you shop:

  • Take food straight home to the refrigerator.
  • Don’t buy anything you won’t use before the use-by or sell-by date.
  • Buy perishable foods last and take them straight home to the refrigerator.

At home:

Chill: Refrigerate promptly.

  • Refrigerate or freeze perishables, ready-to-eat foods and leftovers within two hours of purchasing or preparation. Make sure the refrigerator is set no higher than 40°F and the freezer is set at 0oF.
  • Freeze fresh meat, poultry or fish immediately if you can’t use it within a few days.
  • Put packages of raw meat, poultry or fish in a shallow pan before refrigerating so their juices won’t drip onto other food.
  • If possible, leave a product in its store wrap; if a package is too large, divide the contents into smaller portions, and wrap and freeze what you don’t plan to cook right away.

Clean: Wash hands and sanitize food-contact surfaces often.

  • Wash your hands with hot soapy water before and after preparing food. Be sure to wash your hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers and playing with pets.
  • Wash kitchen towels often in the hot-cycle of your washing machine; avoid sponges or put them in the dishwasher daily to kill bacteria.
  • Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next food item.
  • To kill bacteria, sanitize food-contact surfaces and cooking utensils with a solution of 1-3 tablespoons of household chlorine bleach per gallon of water.

Separate: Avoid cross-contact.

  • Cut vegetables or salad ingredients first, then raw meat and poultry.
  • Wash cutting boards, utensils and counter tops with hot soapy water after cutting raw meat and poultry products and before slicing vegetables or salad ingredients.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry, eggs and seafood and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.
  • Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, eggs or seafood unless the plate has been thoroughly cleaned between uses.
  • Do not use a sponge to soak up meat and poultry juices. Use disposable paper towels.

Cook to proper temperatures:

  • Thaw food in the refrigerator or microwave, not on the kitchen counter; marinate in the refrigerator.
  • Use a clean meat thermometer to measure the internal temperature of cooked foods to make sure meat, poultry, casseroles and other foods are cooked all the way through.
  • Cook ground beef, including meatloaf, to at least 160oF. At this temperature there is usually no pink left in the middle. Cook whole poultry and poultry parts to 165oF.
  • Cook beef, veal and lamb roasts and beef, veal and lamb steaks to an internal temperature of at least 145oF, which is slightly pink in the center. Pork should also be cooked to an internal temperature of 145oF and allowed to rest away from the heat source for at least three minutes before carving and eating.
  • Cook whole poultry to at least 165 degrees for food safety. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook poultry to higher temperatures. Use a food thermometer to assure that meat and poultry have reached a safe minimum temperature.
  • Cook fish until it is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.
  • Cook eggs until both the yolk and white are firm.
  • Reheat sauces, marinades, soups and gravy to a rolling boil. Heat other leftovers thoroughly to at least 165oF.

The microwave oven is a convenient and efficient way to prepare quick meals for individuals or a whole family on the go. Therefore it is equally important to adhere to the following recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.



  • Always follow the manufacturer’s microwave instructions thoroughly.
  • Cover the dish with a lid or plastic wrap to allow steam to build in the product. Use a food thermometer to read temperatures at different locations in the product.
  • Follow the same temperature recommendations for conventional cooking such as 165°F for chicken and chicken products.
  • Arrange food evenly to ensure uniform cooking.
  • Stir, rotate or turn foods midway during the process to eliminate any possible ‘cold spots’.
  • Observe the ‘standing time’ as cooking continues and is completed during this time.


Internal temperature
as measured
with a food thermometer
Ground Meat & Meat Mixtures
Beef, Pork, Veal, Lamb 160°F
Turkey, Chicken 165°F
Fresh Beef, Veal, Lamb
Medium Rare 145°F
Medium 160°F
Well Done 170°F
Whole poultry and poultry parts 165°F
Stuffing (cooked alone or in a bird) 165°F
Fresh Pork  
Medium 145°F
with three minutes of stand time
prior to carving or consuming
Well Done 170°F
Fresh (raw) 160°F
Pre-cooked (to reheat) 140°F
Eggs & Egg Dishes
Eggs Cook until yolk
& white are firm
Egg dishes 160°F
Fin fish 145°F
or flesh is opaque
& separates easily
with fork
Shrimp, Lobster & Crabs flesh pearly & opaque
Clams, Oysters & Mussels Shells open
during cooking
Scallops milky white
or opaque & firm
Leftovers & Casseroles 165°F
Chart source: Partnership for Food Safety Education Cook Fact Sheet,


When you serve food:

  • Use clean dishes and utensils to serve food, not those used in preparation.
  • Never leave perishable food out of the refrigerator for more than two hours; depending upon the outside temperature, if food is left out at a picnic or in a hot car it may only remain safe for 30 minutes.

When you handle leftovers:

  • Divide large amounts of leftovers into small, shallow containers for quick cooling in the refrigerator.
  • Remove stuffing from meats and poultry and refrigerate it in a separate container.
  • Don’t eat cooked or perishable foods that have been kept in the refrigerator for too long (no more than 2-3 days). Never taste food that looks or smells strange to see if you can still use it.
  • When in doubt, throw it out.

If you think you are sick from foodborne bacteria:

  • If you are concerned or have questions about your health, consult your healthcare professional.
  • Any instance of diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or headache lasting longer than two days should be reported to a physician.
  • Most foodborne microorganisms take approximately 1-3 days to cause symptoms. However, some can cause symptoms rapidly and some can take a week or more to cause symptoms. When you call or visit your doctor, be prepared to recount all the foods you have consumed over the past week or more.

Being a good cook is only part of the story when it comes to food preparation. Everyone needs to make safe food preparation a top priority. Knowing how to refrigerate, cook, clean and store foods is the best recipe for keeping you and those who eat your food healthy.

Common Microbes Found in Food and Water*
Bacillus Cereus
Onset: 8 to 16 hours.
Symptoms: Abdominal pain, watery diarrhea, vomiting and nausea.
Associated Foods: Meat products, soups, vegetables, puddings and sauces,
milk and milk products.
Prevention: Cook foods thoroughly, properly reheat food during preparation,
and prevent cross contact.
Campylobacter jejuni
(Campylobacte enteritis)
Onset: 1 to 7 days.
Symptoms: Nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and fever.
Associated Foods: Raw milk, poultry, raw beef, water, pets.
Prevention: Use pasteurized milk; cook foods thoroughly; prevent cross contact;
use sanitary practices; wash hands after handling pets.
Clostridium botulinum
Onset: 18 to 36 hours after ingestion of the food containing the toxin,
although onset times have varied from 4 hours to 8 days.
Symptoms: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, headache, dry mouth,
double vision, droopy eyelids, muscle paralysis, trouble speaking
and swallowing, difficulty breathing. Fatal in 3 to 10 days
if not treated.
Associated Foods: Underheated low-acid canned foods (such as green beans,
mushrooms, and tuna fish), and vacuum-packaged meats,
sausage, fish.
Prevention: When canning foods, follow recommended procedures; cook
foods properly. Refrigerate packaged meats and fish.
Clostridium perfringens
(Perfringens food poisoning)
Onset: 8 to 22 hours.
Symptoms: Diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache, and the chills.
Associated Foods: Meat, poultry, stuffing, gravies and cooked foods held for serving
or stored at inappropriate temperatures.
Prevention: Cool foods rapidly after cooking; hold hot foods at 140ºF or above.
Reheat foods at 165ºF.
Cryptosporidium parvum
(Intestinal, tracheal or pulmonary cryptosporidiosis)
Onset: Approximately 2 days.
Symptoms: Intestinal cryptosporidiosis is characterized by severe watery diarrhea,
or no symptoms at all. Pulmonary and tracheal cryptosporidiosis is
characterized by coughing and low-grade fever; often accompanied
by severe intestinal distress.
Sources/Associated Foods: Could occur on any food touched by an infected food handler.
Incidence is higher in child day care centers that serve food.
Salad vegetables could be a source if fertilized with contaminated
manure or irrigation water. Outbreaks are often linked
to contaminated water supplies.
Prevention: Use properly treated water. Note that water must be filtered
to remove this microbe; resistant to chlorine.
Cyclospora Cayetanesis
Onset: One week.
Symptoms: Explosive and watery diarrhea, accompanied by fatigue,
nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, low-grade fever,
abdominal cramping, loss of appetite, myalgia,
and substantial weight loss. Some people who are
infected with Cyclospora do not have any symptoms.
Sources/Associated Foods: Food or water contaminated with infected stool.
Prevention: Avoid water or food that may be contaminated with stool.
Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157:H7
(Hemorrhagic Colitis)
Onset: 2 to 5 days.
Symptoms: Severe abdominal cramping and diarrhea which is initially
watery but becomes grossly bloody. Occasionally vomiting
occurs. Fever is either low-grade or absent. Some individuals
exhibit watery diarrhea only.
Associated Foods: Raw or undercooked ground beef, raw milk, some fresh produce,
unpasteurized apple juice, alfalfa and radish sprouts.
Prevention: Cook meat to appropriate temperature; avoid cross contact;
use sanitary practices; drink pasteurized milk and apple juice.
Hepatitis A Virus (HAV)
Onset: 10 to 50 days (mean 30 days).
Symptoms: Mild illness characterized by sudden onset of fever,
malaise, nausea, anorexia, and abdominal discomfort,
followed by jaundice.
Associated Foods: Foods contaminated by HAV infected workers in food processing
plants or restaurants. Cold cuts and sandwiches, fruits and
fruit juices, vegetables, salads, and shellfish are commonly
implicated in outbreaks. Water, shellfish, and salads
are the most frequent sources.
Prevention: Use sanitary practices; avoid eating raw shellfish.
Listeria monocytogenes
Onset: 2 days to 3 weeks.
Symptoms: Fever, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may precede more
serious forms of listeriosis or may be the only symptoms
expressed. More serious manifestations of listeriosis include
meningitis, septicemia (infection in the blood).
Associated Foods: Improperly refrigerated milk, raw vegetables, soft or
semi-soft cheese, pâté, deli meat, poultry, seafood.
Can grow slowly at refrigerated temperatures.
Prevention: Cook foods to appropriate temperatures; avoid cross contact;
use sanitary practices; do not store foods in the refrigerator
for long periods of time; keep the inside of refrigerators clean;
immunocompromised individuals should avoid eating high risk
foods such as soft cheeses and pâté.
Norwalk virus
(Viral gastroenteritis, acute non-bacterial gastroenteritis, food poisoning and food infection)
Onset: 24 to 48 hours.
Symptoms: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Headache
and low-grade fever. Severe illness or hospitalization is very rare.
Sources/Associated Foods: Untreated water from municipal supplies, wells, recreational lakes,
|swimming pools, and that stored aboard cruise ships is the most
common source of outbreaks. Shellfish and salad, raw
or insufficiently steamed clams and oysters. Foods other than
shellfish may be contaminated by infected food handlers.
Prevention: Avoid raw shellfish; use sanitary practices.
Salmonella species
Onset: 6 to 48 hours.
Symptoms: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, headache
and chills. Arthritic symptoms may follow 3-4 weeks after onset
of acute symptoms.
Associated Foods: Raw or undercooked meats, poultry, eggs, milk and dairy products,
shrimp, frog legs, non-commercial sauces, salad dressing,
cream-filled desserts and toppings made with raw eggs, cocoa,
chocolate, and alfalfa sprouts.
Prevention: Cook foods thoroughly; avoid cross contact; use sanitary practices.
Shigella species
Onset: 12 to 50 hours.
Symptoms: Abdominal cramps; diarrhea with blood, pus or mucus; fever;
vomiting; chills.
Associated Foods: Salads (potato, tuna, shrimp, macaroni, and chicken), raw
vegetables, and untreated water. Foods usually are contaminated
by an infected food handler.
Prevention: Use sanitary practices; avoid cross contact; cook foods thoroughly;
store foods at proper temperatures (cold foods at 40°F or below;
hot foods at 140°F or above).
Staphylococcus aureus
(Staphylococcal food poisoning)
Onset: 1 to 6 hours.
Symptoms: Severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping.
Sources/Associated Foods: Found in humans (skin, infected cuts, pimples, noses, and throats)
and frequently transmitted to foods by human carriers. Foods
associated with outbreaks include, custard- or cream-filled
baked goods, ham, tongue, cooked poultry, dressing,
gravy, eggs, potato salad, cream sauces, sandwich fillings.
Prevention: Use sanitary practices; refrigerate foods.
Vibrio vulnificus
(Vibrio infection)
Onset: Abrupt.
Symptoms: Chills, fever, and/or prostration. People with liver conditions,
low stomach acid (elderly), and weakened immune systems
are at high risk. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea,
and abdominal pain, rapidly followed by fever and chills.
Sources/Associated Foods: This bacterium lives in coastal waters and can infect humans
either through open wounds or through consumption
of contaminated seafood (clams, oysters, scallops,
crabs and finfish).
Prevention: The organism is easily killed by cooking; avoid eating
raw shellfish, especially oysters.
Yersinia enterocolitica
Onset: 1 to 3 days.
Symptoms: Enterocolitis (inflammation of the intestines and colon)
with diarrhea and/or vomiting; fever and abdominal pain
are the typical symptoms. May mimic acute appendicitis.
Associated Foods: Pork and raw milk.
Prevention: Use pasteurized milk; cook foods to proper temperatures;
avoid cross contact; use sanitary practices; avoid storage
of foods in the refrigerator for long periods of time.
*Adapted in part from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition’s
“Bad Bug Book” and the United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service’s
“Bacteria That Cause Foodborne Illness.”
* Reprinted from the International Food Information Council Foundation

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