Here in the midst of the 2012 Holiday Season, the Illinois Department of Public Health has joined with the Centers for Disease Control to spread the word about the dangers of food products and their risk of serious personal injury to partygoers and folk at family gatherings. Consider this: the CDC estimates that 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) will get sick this Holiday Season from something in their food with 128,000 needing to be hospitalized and shockingly, 3,000 people are estimated may die of foodborne disease.
“As a guest at holiday parties, there are a couple things you can watch out for to avoid foodborne illness. Hot foods should be hot and cold foods cold. Bacteria will start to grow on food that should be served either cold or hot, that is sitting out for more than a couple hours at room temperature. You should also be cautious when eating certain foods, such as raw oysters, egg drinks, soft-boiled eggs, steak tartare and rare or medium hamburger. These foods can harbor bacteria that cause foodborne illness,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck.
What is illness or injury from food (foodborne illness or food poisoning)?
According to the CDC, food poisoning comes not only from food contaminated with bacteria or microbes, it’s also caused by poisonous chemicals or other bad things that find their way into the food that someone eats or drinks. There are over 250 different illnesses that result from bad food that was eaten by the injury victim, resulting in illness or death from the inbibing of bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins, or chemicals.
People (especially children, pregnant women, and the elderly) can become very ill from food poisoning and are the most vulnerable to serious injury or wrongful death from injecting food that is tainted in some way (i.e., food poisoning).
Holiday Party Food PreparationTips From the Illinois Department of Public Health
- Clean: Wash your hands with soap and warm water for twenty seconds before and after preparing food. Wash all utensils, dishes and countertops with hot soap and water. Rinse fresh produce with water.
- Separate: Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw meat and poultry, and their juices, separate from fruits, vegetables, and cooked foods. Never use a utensil on cooked foods that was previously used on uncooked foods, unless it’s washed first with soap and water.
- Cook: Always use a food thermometer when cooking meat and poultry to make sure it’s cooked to a safe internal temperature.
- Chill: Refrigerate leftovers within two hours. Set your refrigerator at or below 40°F and the freezer at 0°F.
What to do If You Suspect Bad Food or Food Poisoning
First things first, of course, are to get needed medical attention for the person or people who are ill. After that, there comes the tasks of reporting and investigating and seeking justice for injuries sustained by foodborne illness and food poisoning.
If you have a problem with a food product, according to the USDA website, separate government agencies are responsible for protecting different segments of the food supply.
- For Help with Meat, Poultry and Processed Egg Products: Call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or report the complaint online.
- For Help with Restaurant Food Problems: Call the Health Department in your city, county or state. View a complete listing of State Departments of Public Health.
- For Help with Non-Meat Food Products (Cereals, Fish, Produce, Fruit Juice, Pastas, Cheeses, etc): For complaints about food products which do not contain meat or poultry — such as cereal — call or write to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Check your local phone book under U.S. Government, Health and Human Services, to find an FDA office in your area. The FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition can be reached at 1-888-723-3366.
And remember, save the container, the receipt, and all documentation related to the food in order to provide needed facts not only to the government agency investigating the food or drink item for dangers and potential recall, but for your own use in asserting a claim for damages against those responsible for the injuries sustained by you or a loved one.