Healthy Living: Food Poisoning and Proper Food Preparation | BSCTC

Healthy Living: Food Poisoning and Proper Food Preparation

Sabra JacobsThroughout the summer months ahead, most people will be enjoying more frequent family and social outdoor gatherings. And, most of these gatherings will include some types of refreshments, primarily food. This months Healthy Living topic will focus on the proper handling of foods in an effort to minimize incidents of food poisoning and its unpleasant side effects among your family members and friends.

Causes :

Food poisoning is an illness caused by eating foods that have harmful organisms (e.g., germs, parasites, bacteria, and viruses) in them. There are a variety of ways that these organisms may invade the foods we eat such as:

During food processing within the animals providing the food (e.g., bacteria in normal intestines from chickens, cow, etc., may touch and contaminate the rest of the animals parts that are sold for food)

During food growing (e.g., fruits and vegetables may be washed in contaminated water prior to packaging)

During food handling (e.g., the person preparing the food may be infected and contaminate the food they are touching or someone may use the same cutting board for vegetables as they may use for meats, thus possibly contaminating the vegetables)

Through the natural environment (e.g., pesticides and polluted water may be used to protect and water the foods we eat)


The symptoms of food poisoning usually affect your digestive system. Consequently, you may feel nausea, vomiting, belly cramps, and diarrhea with mild food poisoning. More serious forms of food poisoning, however, may include symptoms of weakness, numbness, confusion, severe dehydration, blurred or double vision, dizziness or lightheaded, or tingling of the face, hands, and feet and requires immediate medical attention and intervention. The specific timing and severity of these symptoms depends largely on your age, overall health, and the infecting organisms.

Whos Most at Risk?

Young children

Older adults

Pregnant women

People with impaired immune systems due to chronic illnesses such as diabetes

People who eat or drink unpasteurized juices and milk and soft cheeses and people who eat raw spouts

People who eat raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs, fish, and shellfish

Drinking or eating contaminated food prepared by careless processing or handling

Traveling to developing countries

Treatments :

Watchful waitingas most food poisoning goes away on its own

Get rest and plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration

Eat normally as soon as possible when you can eat without vomiting

Use of anti-diarrheal medicinesbe sure to heed the warnings and directions about proper use

Call the poison control agency nearest you to report your case and seek instructions

Call your doctor or go to the hospital if dehydration or other symptoms persist or worsen

Prevention :

In order to minimize the risks of food poisoning to you and your family, please follow these suggestions:

Shop safely bag raw meats and fish separately from the rest of your food items and go directly home after food shopping to minimize the time the meats, fish, and dairy items are away from refrigeration

Prepare foods safely wash your hands before and after handling food, wash your hands after using the bathroom or changing diapers, use separate cutting boards for vegetables and meat/fish, and disinfect cutting boards and knives by washing them in the dishwasher

Store foods safely set your refrigerator at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and be sure to cook, refrigerate, or freeze meats, eggs, fish, and ready-to-eat foods within 2 hours

Cook foods safely use a clean meat thermometer to determine whether foods are cooked to a safe temperature and do not eat undercooked or raw hamburger or fish

Serve foods safely keep cooked hot foods hot (at or above 60 degrees Fahrenheit) and cold foods cold (at or above 40 degrees Fahrenheit)

Follow labels on food packaging reading and following safety instructions will reduce your chances of becoming food poisoned

When in doubt, throw out if you are unsure whether a food is safe, dont taste or eat it and reheating questionable food will not make it safe

Observe warm weather food preparation safety bacteria grow faster in warmer weather so food spoils more quickly; do not leave food outdoors for more than 1 hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit and never leave it outdoors for more than 2 hours

Consult with county extension office services these people can answer questions about safe home canning and food preparation

Suggested References :

Food Poisoning and Safe Food Handling. (2012). emedicine Health.

Prevention of Food Poisoning. (2012). emedicine Health.

What are the Symptoms of Food Poisoning? (2012). emedicine Health.

What Causes Food Poisoning? (2012). emedicine Health.

Questions or Comments? Please contact: Sabra Jacobs, Professor of Psychology, Big Sandy Community and Technical College, 1 Bert T. Combs Drive, Prestonsburg, KY 41653; email ; call (606) 889-4778; or stop by my office Pike Building, room 209 f on the Prestonsburg Campus.