Food-borne Illness & Prevention

This week in nutrition class I learned about food safety. People who are most at risk for food-borne illnesses are elderly people, pregnant women, and people who are already sick or have a disease. But anyone can be a victim of unsafe food handling whether by yourself unknowingly in the kitchen or from eating at establishments where workers have not completely followed their food safety rules. Bacteria are the primary causers of food-borne infections. The three most common are  Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella, and E. coli. There are four factors that increase the likelihood of microorganism invasion in foods:

  1. Temperature: the danger zone is from 40°F-140°F; make sure your fridge is colder than 40 and carnivores who have raw meat must cook it above 140 at least, though for most meats 180 is best.
  2. Humidity: stuff that is moist will attract more microorganisms. A dry box of pasta is ok in the pantry for example, but wet stuff, keep in the fridge.
  3. PH level: acid foods welcome bacteria whereas alkaline foods don’t. Same thing happens in your digestive system – when it’s more acid, it welcomes germs and you get sick easily; a person with an internal alkaline environment on a regular basis simply won’t get sick or will have the absolute minimum symptoms. More about this in my PH Miracle post.
  4. Oxygen: most microorganisms require oxygen to function so we have to package food often. However, the Clostridium botulinum bacteria actually likes an oxygen-free environment, which is why canned food is heated at extremely high temperatures, so that it destroys that bacteria. Unfortunately, it also destroys the nutrients in the canned items too! Raw foodies, stay away from canned foods unless it’s the apocalypse and you are underground with nothing else.

Here are ways you can protect yourself at home from food-borne illnesses:

  • wash your hands often in warm soapy water but not scalding because that opens up your skin more to let in more bacteria
  • wash your surfaces and utensils thoroughly
  • separate foods and their tools [this is for nonvegans] – don’t use the same cutting boards, utensils, etc. for cutting/prepping raw animal flesh as well as fruits/veggies, and keep your dead flesh tightly sealed at the bottom of the fridge so its nasty contaminated juices don’t spill out onto our lovely healthy produce.
  • refrigerate or freeze food, making sure the fridge is set to 40°F or below
  • if you must cook foods [and for nonvegans] cook them at least to 140°F, meats to 180°F.
  • quickly refrigerate leftovers even if still hot so that those microbes don’t reproduce so quickly – the rule is 2 hrs/2 inches/4 days — food needs to be in the fridge no more than 2 hours from serving (1 hr if it’s a dead animal’s parts or products), it shouldn’t be packaged more than 2 inches shallow, and it will only stay good for 4 days.

You can greatly avoid much of this silliness if you simply are (or become) vegan. Notice the foods that actually cause these illnesses [fsis.usda.gov/Fsis_Recalls/Open_Federal_Cases] — you don’t see too many plants on there! The plants that do make it on the black list are there because the soil they grow in is infected with farm run-off (since farm waste isn’t really regulated, farms can usually dump poop and carcass wherever they darn well please; pleasant thought, huh?).

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Thompson, Janice & Manore, Melinda. Nutrition: An Applied Approach, 3rd Ed. Copyright (c) 2012 Pearson Education, Inc.

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