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Some foods have a higher risk of causing foodborne illnesses. Foods containing harmful bacteria can make you sick after eating. Once infected, side effects can be mild to extremely severe. However, there are ways you can protect your family. Here is everything you need to know about food outbreaks and what triggers them.
Foodborne Illness – What Is It?
Harmful parasites or bacteria that cause infections in the gastrointestinal tract (GI) cause foodborne illnesses. Common symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, chills, and fever. Some chemicals may affect the nervous system causing headaches, dizziness, weakness, blurred vision, or even paralysis.
What Causes It?
Chicken, veggies, and pork are ranked highest amongst the foods that cause foodborne illnesses. These types of foods seem to be the most easily contaminated. Food can be contaminated through improper handling or accidental exposure to bacteria. Bacteria and parasites are passed to our gastrointestinal tract after ingestion, causing diseases.
Topping the list of foods that cause various infections is chicken. Poultry recalls are usually due to salmonella. Salmonella is a bacterium that occurs mainly in the intestine and can have very unpleasant side symptoms. The bacteria present in raw chicken, when chicken is not washed and cooked properly, gets ingested. This causes irritation and infections in the gastrointestinal tract.
Veggies also rank high in foods that cause foodborne illnesses. Plants are exposed to tons of bacteria when growing in the fields. Passing animals may leave fecal matter or droppings.
Your produce may be exposed to cross-contamination during transportation. If the vegetables are not washed properly before eating, the bacteria enter the gut and can cause a number of infections.
Some vegetables are meant to be consumed raw instead of cooked. Many people enjoy eating raw cucumbers, lettuce, and carrots, just to name a few. These vegetables have a higher risk of bacteria associated with them.
Is washing all produce really necessary?
Absolutely! Since they won't be exposed to high heat before eating, it's crucial to carefully wash all vegetables. For instance, clean your veggies with a food-grade produce wash. You can also use a produce brush.
You can make an all-natural wash at home.
DIY Fruit & Vegetable Wash
- 1 cup clean drinking water
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/8 teaspoon grapefruit seed extract
Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle and shake well. Spritz the wash onto produce and let sit for 2 minutes. Rinse your veggies in clean water, using scrub brush if necessary. Now you're ready to enjoy your favorite fresh vegetables safely!
Pork may contain parasites such as sarcocystis and protozoa toxoplasma gondi. Both are parasites that can cause serious foodborne illnesses. Pork is the largest consumed form of meat all over the world, increasing the chances that bacteria can harm large amounts of people.
One of the ways that may result in contaminated meat is buying from companies with unhygienic slaughter facilities. Not following the proper slaughter process can contaminate the meat.
Look for organic, ethical companies to buy meat from as they are usually transparent about their practices. Companies proud of how they operate often have tons of information online about their facilities.
How to Protect Yourself and Your Family
Foodborne illnesses can be prevented by taking a few precautions.
- Refrigerate perishable and raw food promptly to halt bacteria growth.
- Cook food to the correct temperatures before eating to insure all bacteria are killed. Refer to a guide if you're unsure.
- Make sure to wash vegetables and fruit under running water, using a mild produce wash. You can also use a veggie brush, for stubborn produce such as potatoes.
- Wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds under warm water before and after handling raw meat, fish, poultry, eggs, or any produce.
- Sterilize utensils with hot, soapy water after every use.
How can you tell if your food has been cooked thoroughly?
Check your food with a thermometer to see if it's at the temperatures listed below (Fahrenheit) yet. Continue cooking until the recommended temperature has been reached. Remove from heat and enjoy!
What This Means For You
In conclusion, knowing which foods are high risk can help you better prepare your food. Educate your friends and family to ensure they are also practicing food safety. To prevent foodborne illnesses, remember to wash produce thoroughly and cook meat at a high temperature to kill all the bacteria.
Above all, sanitizing utensils and surfaces will also keep bacteria and parasites away.
Were you surprised by these top bacteria-laden foods or already knew which ones to look out for? Let us know your favorite food prep hack in the comments below.