Foodborne Illness Cases Prompt Caution

September 4, 2013

Originally published on Oct. 17, 2011

According to a new study published by British medical researchers, as many as 20 percent of Americans, or 60 million people, are more vulnerable to foodborne illness. This group of more susceptible people includes the elderly, young children, pregnant women, alcoholics, diabetics, and people with diseases that affect the immune system, such as HIV/AIDS, cancer and multiple sclerosis.

With the recent outbreak of listeria in cantaloupe, foodborne illness has been reported more in the media. This past summer, Georgians were affected by papayas grown in Mexico that were associated with an outbreak of Salmonella Agona. There were 106 cases of Salmonella Agona nationwide, with 8 cases reported in Georgia. Last month, 130,000 pounds of ground beef from Kansas was recalled due to possible E. coli 0157:H7 contamination. While some of this meat was shipped to stores in Georgia, no cases of E. coli 0157:H7 associated with this recall were reported.

“Unless you are immune-compromised, the best way to prevent foodborne disease is not to avoid specific foods, but to make sure they are handled and cooked appropriately,” said Dr. Melissa Tobin-D’Angelo, Medical Epidemiologist in the Acute Disease Epidemiology section with the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH).

“It is best to follow USDA recommendations on cooking meat, such as cooking beef and pork steaks to an internal temperature of 145°F, ground beef and pork to an internal temperature of 160°F, and poultry to an internal temperature of 165°F. While preparing meat for cooking, it’s important to keep it separate from ready-to-eat components of your meal, like raw fruits and vegetables. Washing your cutting board, countertop, and hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling raw meat can also help prevent the spread of harmful bacteria. After you have prepared your meal, it is important to refrigerate or freeze any leftovers within two hours or sooner to prevent foodborne illness,” Dr. Tobin-D’Angelo concluded.

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