Editor's Note: The following is a news release issued by The New Jersey Poison Information & Education System.
On the heels of Superstorm Sandy and a nor’easter, comes Thanksgiving in the garden state. This is a special time to give thanks and focus on family especially after the devastation New Jersey residents suffered in the last few weeks. Just as the New Jersey Poison Experts were there to assist callers during and after the recent storms, they are here now ready to answer your holiday food-related questions and/or concerns.
“Oftentimes, the best part about the holidays is spending time with family … and eating of course!” said Dr. Bruce Ruck, Pharm.D. of the New Jersey Poison Center. “However, even for an experienced chef, cooking a feast for a large group can be quite daunting. It’s important to follow safe food handling and cooking guidelines so that your guests leave with full bellies and not food poisoning.”
According to Dr. Ruck, food poisoning is generally a mild illness that most commonly results from poor food handling practices. Food poisoning usually occurs two to six hours after eating the contaminated food and can include nausea, fever, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea. Depending on the exact type of food poisoning, how your body reacts to the toxin and the amount of contaminated food that was eaten, symptoms may last from several hours to two or three days. Food poisoning can be serious for people in poor health, for the very young and the elderly.
Handling food safely can help ensure a happy holiday season. Practicing basic food safety preparation and storage are the best ways to protect against food poisoning. Experts at the New Jersey Poison Center offer the following recommendations to prevent food poisonings:
- Wash hands with soap and warm running water for at least 15 to 20 seconds before preparing any foods and especially after handling raw meat, poultry, fish or eggs.
- Keep preparation and storage areas clean; this includes countertops, stovetops and refrigerators.
- Wash utensils between each use. Never reuse utensils; this is a source of contamination.
- Do not defrost meat or poultry on the counter at room temperature. Thaw it in the refrigerator or microwave instead.
- Use a meat thermometer to confirm that meat, pork and poultry are properly cooked; visit www.foodsafety.gov for proper temperatures.
- Do not prepare food if you are sick or have any type of nose or eye infection.
- Store raw food below cooked food in the refrigerator so raw food cannot drip into cooked food and contaminate it.
- Use separate cutting boards for meats, poultry and fish.
- Follow the directions on food packages.
And to ensure that the leftovers will be just as good the next day, properly seal and store leftovers in the refrigerator as soon as possible. Leaving perishable foods, including meats and dairy products, out at room temperature longer than two hours significantly increases the risk of food poisoning. Throw food away if you are unsure how long it has been sitting out.
“Be sure to keep these tips in mind as you cook and entertain family and friends this holiday season,” Ruck said. “And if you have questions about food preparation/handling, foodborne illness, or any poison exposure call the New Jersey Poison Experts 24 hours a day/7 days a week at 1-800-222-1222.”
Help is Just a Phone Call Away!
If someone is unconscious, not breathing, seizing/convulsing, bleeding profusely, difficult to arouse/wake up, etc. call 911 immediately, otherwise call the New Jersey Poison Experts at (1-800-222-1222). They are always here to help with accidents or questions involving medicines, chemicals or household products, etc. Help is available in over 150 languages; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year.
Program the Poison Help line (800-222-1222) into your cell phone and post it near your home and office phones too. There are no silly questions and our trained medical staff are always available to answer a question, quell a fear, provide advice, or intervene to get emergency services on site and prepped to provide the needed protocol in the fastest response time. When in doubt, check it out - Prevention is truly the best possible medicine.