Public health advisory / preventing food poisoning (10/07/16)

NB 1221

July 16, 2010

FREDERICTON (CNB) - New Brunswickers are being urged by the chief medical officer of health to follow a few common sense precautions to avoid food poisoning. Two specific concerns about food handling during the summer 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. Eilish Cleary. "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 simply by touching an infected surface such as a cutting board and then touching another surface.

Persons who become infected with E. coli experience a wide range of health effects. Some do not get sick, but 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 they usually clear up within seven to 10 days.

In some persons, particularly children younger than 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.

New Brunswickers should be particularly careful when cooking or eating outside at picnics or when going on camping trips when safety features such as refrigeration and washing facilities found in kitchens are not easily accessible, Cleary said.

"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 Cleary. "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."

Another health tip is washing fruits and vegetables. U-picks are often popular during the summer, and New Brunswickers should bring produce home and wash it prior to eating it.

There is also more seafood being eaten during the summer months, it is strongly recommended to cook all seafood, including oysters and quahogs. Shellfish should only be purchased from approved sources and only shellfish harvested from open harvest areas should be consumed.


EDITOR'S NOTE: Information about preventing food poisoning follows. MEDIA CONTACT: Danielle Phillips, communications, Department of Health, 506-444-3821.

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 about 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 they 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 cannot tell the difference between contaminated or non-contaminated ground beef by the way it looks, smells or tastes.

Preventing infection