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As the holiday season ramps up, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is reminding Californians about the importance of safe food handling to prevent foodborne illness. “Thorough cooking, adequate refrigeration, good hand washing and work area hygiene are the key practices to prevent foodborne illness,” said CDPH Director Dr. Mark Horton. “Properly prepared and handled foods ensure not only a safe holiday meal, but a safe meal every day.” The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths annually in the United States are related to foodborne diseases. Salmonella and E. coli are two very common bacterial pathogens that every year are responsible for thousands of cases of foodborne illnesses, caused by ingesting contaminated foods. Contamination usually occurs as a result of poor food handling practices. Symptoms of infection with Salmonella include fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea which may be bloody. Symptoms of E. coli infection may include abdominal cramps and diarrhea which is often bloody. Most infected people recover from foodborne illnesses within a week. Some, however, may develop complications that require hospitalization. Young children and the elderly are at highest risk for potentially life-threatening complications, such as kidney failure. Foodborne diseases can be prevented by simple safety steps in the kitchen. Wash hands with soap and warm water before and after food preparation, and especially after handling raw foods. Clean all work surfaces, utensils and dishes with hot soapy water and rinse with hot water after each use. Be sure to cook foods thoroughly and to refrigerate adequately between meals.