What do you know about food poisoning?

    What do I need to know about food poisoning?

    — Anonymous,

    Revelle College

    Food poisoning cases are more prevalent than you might think. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the average person in America will have a food-borne illness once every three to four years. With this statistic in mind, it is important to be aware of prevention and diagnostic tactics so you can greatly decrease your risk of getting food poisoning, or you can get help quickly if you display the symptoms.

    “There are a few key things to do to avoid food poisoning on this campus,” said Dr. Brad Buchman, director of clinical services at the Student Health Services. “Be sure to cook food like chicken, beef and pork to prevent food-borne illnesses, since they need to be cooked thoroughly. According to Dr. Buchman, although there are different temperatures for cooking them, they should all be in the medium-well to well-done range to make sure the temperature is hot enough to kill off microorganisms. The other key thing is to not let food sit at room temperature for too long. Hot food and cold food is fine, but food at room temperature really runs the risk of the microorganisms developing.

    The dangers of storing foods at room temperature does not only apply to meat and dairy products. Everyday items like salads and fresh juices can be suspect when it comes to food poisoning.

    “For instance, something as simple as potato salad can spoil easily,” Dr. Buchman said. “If you store it in the fridge, the bacteria will not grow; if you heat it up, that bacteria will be killed. If it sits at room temperature for a number of hours, organisms can multiply very rapidly, and the toxin level in some organisms can increase also pretty rapidly. This is why when you eat something at a picnic that has been sitting for too long on a table, there is a risk of a lot of bacteria or a lot of toxins being present in the food, which can lead to food poisoning.”

    Another key aspect to avoiding food poisoning is making sure everything is washed well to get rid of pesticides, bacteria and microorganisms.

    “You need to make sure to thoroughly wash foods that are eaten raw,” Buchman said. “It is possible to get food poisoning from fruits and vegetables you would not think are at high risk for food poisoning, like lettuce and cantaloupe. The pesticides sprayed on them need to be eliminated. If they are organic, you do not need to worry about pesticides, but you do need to worry about microorganisms and bacteria. There could be bacteria on the person’s hand that picked it for you, which could lead to a case of food poisoning.”

    What about those of you who like to consume raw eggs in the name of health?

    “Drinking raw eggs in a milkshake is not smart for two reasons,” Buchman said. “One is the strong food-poisoning possibility of salmonella being present in the eggs, and the other is that the main protein in eggs needs to be cooked well for the human body to digest it.”

    If you suspect you might have food poisoning even after taking precautions, keep the following symptoms in mind.

    “Food poisoning can be present in a variety of ways,” Buchman said. “Most often, there might be gastrointestinal-tract symptoms like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It really depends on the severity of these core symptoms. Sometimes one might also have a fever, loss of energy and diffuse aches and pain.”

    If you experience severe diarrhea or severe vomiting, you should seek help. Also, if you have diarrhea with blood in your stool or diarrhea with a high fever, you should see a doctor.

    “If there are other symptoms, we advise people to go to a clear fluids diet, like water, Gatorade and apple juice,” Buchman said. “Be careful not to drink citrus juices like orange juice, since they are acidic and can often irritate the stomach. If you cannot keep anything down because of acute vomiting, get some medical help immediately.”

    For more information on food poisoning, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov or Student Health Services at http://studenthealth.ucsd.edu. To see a medical professional, make an appointment at Student Health Services by calling (858) 534-3874 or by visiting their website.

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