Public health advisory / Preventing food poisoning (09/07/30)

NB 1060

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.

Separate: keep raw foods separate from cooked foods to avoid cross-contamination.

Cook: make sure that you kill harmful bacteria by cooking food until it reaches the proper temperature.

Chill: Keep cold food cold. Letting food sit at unsafe temperatures puts you at risk of food-borne illnesses.

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