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Each year, about 1 in 6 Americans suffer food poisoning. That's 48 million people! Foodborne illnesses lead to 128,000 hospitalizations a year and 3,000 deaths. Our food quality standards are high, but germs are tenacious -- working hard to maintain high food safety levels is crucial to preventing food poisoning cases.
There are more than 250 foodborne diseases, mostly infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites. But
The five top germs that cause illnesses from food eaten in the United States are:
Some other germs don't cause as many illnesses, but when they do, the illnesses are more likely to lead to hospitalization. Those germs include:
Common symptoms of foodborne diseases are nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, fever, and diarrhea. However, symptoms may vary slightly among the different types of foodborne illnesses. Symptoms can sometimes be severe, and some foodborne illnesses can even be life-threatening. After you consume a contaminated food or drink, it may take hours or days before you develop symptoms.
Although anyone can get a foodborne illness, there are some groups who are more likely to develop one. Those groups include:
The good news is that most people with a foodborne illness recover without medical treatment, but people with severe symptoms should see their doctor. If you experience symptoms of food poisoning, such as diarrhea or vomiting, drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
See your doctor or healthcare provider if you have severe symptoms that include:
Different forms of bacteria can affect different foods, and thrive under different conditions. It's helpful to familiarize yourself with all of these, but to sharpen up your grill skills here are some general preparation tips:
Clean and disinfect: Wash your hands in warm, soapy water before preparing food. Thoroughly wash and disinfect all surfaces and objects in your kitchen, including cutting boards, utensils, and countertops.
Avoid cross-contamination: Separate raw foods from ready-to-eat foods, and prepare different raw foods on different plates and cutting boards. Utilize gloves when preparing different raw foods.
Cook at proper temperatures: Learn the best temperatures to cook different foods at in order to kill germs, and use food thermometers to ensure correct temperature.
Refrigerate: Maintain a refrigerator temperature below 40°F and refrigerate perishable foods promptly. Thaw frozen food in the refrigerator, microwave, or in cold water; bacteria flourishes on foods thawed on the counter.
Preventing food poisoning doesn't stop at home: if you or a loved one is suffering from a foodborne illness, you should call your city or county health department to make a report. This information may help identify a source of food poisoning before many others are affected.
Regardless of the severity of food poisoning symptoms, dehydration is always a concern, especially in vulnerable people like older adults and children. Watch for signs of dehydration! Mild to moderate cases can typically be treated at home with water and oral rehydration fluids, but more serious cases will often require a doctor and treatment using intravenous (IV) solutions.