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Prevent illness with food safety

HANCOCK – Taking extra food-safety precautions to avoid illness makes for an enjoyable Fourth of July holiday celebration.

“Food safety should be an integral part of all community and family gatherings this summer,” said Lynne Madison, director of Western Upper Peninsula Health Department Environmental Health Division. “Food temperature control, healthy food handlers with good hygienic practices, and sanitary food facilities are critical factors for food safety.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates one in six Americans – 48,000,000 people – suffer from food-borne illness each year. Food-borne illness results in about 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths annually, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

“Because food-borne bacteria thrive and multiply more quickly in warmer temperatures, food-borne illness can spike during summer,” said Deputy Undersecretary for Food Safety Al Almanza. “This is likely because people are spending more time outside – away from the sink and equipment in the kitchen that help consumers keep food safe.”

Said Madison, “When food handling mistakes are made, the results can be severe. Bacteria such as salmonella can multiply to extraordinary numbers when food is improperly handled, causing severe illness. Eating food contaminated with salmonella can result in abdominal cramping, diarrhea and fever.

“Most people experiencing the vomiting and diarrhea that are common symptoms of food-borne illness recover within a few days, but for infants, the elderly, pregnant women and (anyone whose) immune system (is) compromised, food-borne illness can be deadly.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control, the top two causes of food-borne illness are norovirus and salmonella bacteria,” Madison said. “This spring, the Health Department investigated reports of gastrointestinal illness circulating in the district. Sometime call ‘stomach flu,’ … it is most likely caused by norovirus, which is easily transmitted from person to person and is the most common cause of such outbreaks. Thorough hand washing, not handling food when you are sick and disinfection of contaminated surfaces are the most important measures for controlling and preventing norovirus.

“Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds prior to handling fresh produce. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running warm tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten. Rub firm-skin fruits and vegetables under running tap water or scrub with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing with running tap water,” Madison said.

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