Public health advisory / Preventing food poisoning (09/07/30)
July 30, 2009
FREDERICTON (CNB) - The province's deputy chief medical officer of health is urging New
Brunswickers to help avoid the risk of food poisoning by following a few common sense precautions. Two
areas of specific food-handling concern during the summer months are backyard barbecues and picnics.
"When preparing meats for the barbecue, the risk is especially high for certain kinds of food poisoning,
including infection caused by the bacteria E. coli," said Dr. Paul Van Buynder. "I strongly encourage
people to be extra vigilant and to take safety precautions when handling raw meat, and to ensure that meat
is thoroughly cooked."
In addition to illnesses associated with undercooked ground beef, E. coli illness can also be associated
with unpasteurized cider, sprouts and even water. In addition, the bacteria can be spread just by touching
an infected surface, such as a cutting board, and then touching another surface.
People who become infected with E. coli experience a wide range of health effects. Some do not get sick
at all. Others have symptoms ranging from stomach cramps to vomiting, fever, and watery or bloody
diarrhea. These symptoms usually appear within two-to-10 days after contact with the bacteria, and
usually clear up within seven-to-10 days.
In some persons, particularly children under five and the elderly, the infection can cause a complication
called hemolytic uremic syndrome, in which the red blood cells are destroyed and the kidneys fail. This
condition may even be fatal.
When cooking or eating outside at picnics or on camping trips, safety features such as refrigeration and
washing facilities found in kitchens are not easily accessible, so Van Buynder asks New Brunswickers to
be particularly careful.
"Unwashed hands, undercooked meats, cross-contamination from raw meats to other foods, and eating
unwashed fruits and vegetables can spread E. coli and other forms of food-borne illness," said Van
Buynder. "It is therefore important to remember to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. By following
some simple guidelines about food safety, you can minimize your family's risk of food poisoning, and you
will continue to enjoy summer cookouts or picnics."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Information about preventing food poisoning follows. MEDIA CONTACT: Meghan
Cumby, communications, Department of Health 506-457-3522.
Preventing food poisoning
Clean: wash hands and surfaces often to avoid the spread of bacteria.
- Wash your hands with hot, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before handling food, and after handling
raw meats or poultry, using the bathroom, changing diapers, or touching pets.
- When camping or going on a picnic, find out if there will be a source of clean water. If not, bring water
for preparation and cleaning, or pack disposable wipes and/or sanitizing lotions and paper towels.
- Take clean plastic bags or containers in which to store leftover food.
- Always wash raw fruits and vegetables in clean water. You cannot tell by the way they look, smell, or
taste whether foods carry surface bacteria.
Separate: keep raw foods separate from cooked foods to avoid cross-contamination.
- When you pack a cooler for an outing, wrap raw meats and poultry securely and put them on the bottom
to prevent juices from dripping onto other foods.
- Wash all plates, utensils and cutting boards that touched or held raw meat or poultry before using them
again for cooked foods.
Cook: make sure that you kill harmful bacteria by cooking food until it reaches the proper
- Don't guess. Take a digital instant-read food thermometer along to check when meat and poultry are
safe to eat. The safe temperatures for cooked foods are:
o 71° C (160° F) for ground beef;
o 74° C (165° F) for leftover food; and
o 85° C (185° F) for whole poultry.
- If you have to check more than once, clean the thermometer before using it again.
- Eat cooked food while it's still hot. Remember, bacteria can grow when food is allowed to cool down
Chill: Keep cold food cold. Letting food sit at unsafe temperatures puts you at risk of food-borne
- Perishable foods such as luncheon meats, cooked meat, chicken, and potato or pasta salads, that are
normally in the refrigerator, must be kept in an insulated cooler with freezer packs or blocks of ice to
keep them at 4° C (40° F) or below.
- Refrigerate or freeze food the day before you pack it for a trip.
- When packing a cooler, put your meat or poultry on the bottom, and then pack food in reverse order, so
that the foods packed on top are the ones you expect to use first.
- Keep the cooler in the coolest part of the car, and place it in shade or shelter, away from direct sunlight.
Keep the cooler closed as much as possible.
- Consider using one cooler for beverages and another for perishable foods, since the beverage cooler is
likely to be opened more frequently.
- Put leftovers back in the cooler as soon as you are finished eating.
- Discard all perishable foods once the ice or freezer packs in your cooler have melted.
- The simple rule is: when in doubt, throw it out.
Information on preventing food poisoning from undercooked ground beef.
You can minimize your risk of food poisoning from undercooked ground beef by handling and cooking
raw meat properly.
Illness is caused by a specific type of bacteria called E.coli 0157:H7. E.coli live in the intestines of cattle,
and can be transferred to the outer surface of meat when an animal is butchered. The process of grinding
can then spread the bacteria throughout the meat. You can not tell the difference between contaminated or
non-contaminated ground beef by the way it looks, smells, or tastes.
How to prevent infection
- Bacteria grow quickly at room temperature, so when you are running errands, make grocery shopping
your last stop.
- Buy perishable foods last, and refrigerate or freeze them as soon as you get home.
- Never defrost food at room temperature. Thaw food in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the
microwave if you are going to be cooking it immediately.
- Marinate food in the refrigerator.
- Set your refrigerator to 4° C (40° F) and your freezer to -18° C (0° F).
- Always wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before handling food and after handling raw meat,
poultry, seafood or eggs.
- Sanitize countertops, cutting boards and utensils with a mild bleach and water solution before and after
- Use paper towels to wipe kitchen surfaces, or change dishcloths daily to avoid the risk of
cross-contamination and the spread of bacteria.
- Avoid using sponges, as they are harder to keep bacteria-free.
- Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods in your grocery cart.
- Store these raw foods in sealed containers or plastic bags on bottom shelves in your refrigerator to keep
their juices from dripping onto other foods.
- Use one cutting board for produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry and seafood.
- To make sure that you kill bacteria, cook hamburger and other ground meats thoroughly, as ground beef
can turn brown before disease-causing bacteria are killed. Use a digital instant-read food thermometer
to ensure thorough cooking to an internal temperature of 71°C.
- Never place cooked food back on the same plate or cutting board that previously held raw food -
people often make this mistake when cooking on the barbeque.
- Never use leftover marinade for basting or as a sauce, unless you boil it first to kill bacteria.