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You can reduce cases of foodborne illness

Jul 23, 2014
A foodborne illness (food poisoning) can happen when someone eats food that’s contaminated with harmful bacteria. Someone may not even realize they have eaten contaminated food – you can’t see, taste or smell these harmful bacteria.

A foodborne illness (food poisoning) can happen when someone eats food that’s contaminated with harmful bacteria. Someone may not even realize they have eaten contaminated food – you can’t see, taste or smell these harmful bacteria.

The most common symptoms people experience from food poisoning include severe headaches, diarrhea, abdominal pain, tiredness, fever, nausea and vomiting. Depending on the bacteria, symptoms could begin as soon as six hours or as long as five days after being exposed.

There were 230 cases of foodborne disease reported to the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit in 2013.  While most of these were not overly serious, 28 cases required hospitalization and one person died from their illness. Provincially, there were 7,323 cases of foodborne illness in 2013, with Campylobacter (56%) and Salmonellosis (37%) being the two most commonly reported cases.

Types of bacteria that cause food poisoning thrive in warm temperatures. Raw, protein-rich foods like meat, fish, dairy products, poultry and eggs that are not kept cool or cold can provide the perfect setting for bacteria to grow unseen.  Food can be contaminated without a bad odour or taste to warn unsuspecting diners.

During the summer months foodborne illness increases as bacteria thrive in warm environments. When making dinner for your family, preparing food at a campsite or planning a family barbeque, safe food practices will help reduce the number of foodborne illnesses in our community, keeping you, your family and your guests happy and healthy.  Here are some simple things you can do both inside and outside of the home when preparing and/or serving food:

  • Clean – hands and surfaces often
  • Separate – raw meat from ready-to-eat or previously cooked foods
  • Cook – all foods to safe and proper internal temperatures and check with a thermometer
  • Chill – refrigerate groceries and leftovers immediately, and pack coolers properly

 

The summer months also bring an increase in private and community events where food is being prepared and/or served. If you are an organizer of an event, you should contact a public health inspector from the health unit with as much lead time as possible. Public health inspectors are here to help you prevent the risk of illness by discussing safe food handling practices, as well as proper storage, transportation, preparation and serving of foods.  Depending on the nature of your event, a Special Event Permit may be required.

To learn more about food safety at home and at special events, you can speak with a public health inspector by calling Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, connecting with us on Facebook or Twitter, or by visiting simcoemuskokahealth.org/Topics/FoodSafety.aspx.

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Dr. Gardner is Simcoe Muskoka’s medical officer of health.


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