Foodborne illness prevention has become a top-of-mind concern for many individuals and families. With recent reports linking foodborne illnesses and deaths to listeria and botulism, there is good reason to be aware and well informed. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 6 Americans, or approximately 48 million people, get a foodborne illness every year after consuming contaminated foods or beverages. Most foodborne illness symptoms are mild; however, in some instances, they may lead to hospitalization and possibly death. No doubt, foodborne illness is a common public health problem; fortunately, it is also one of the most preventable. How can you protect yourself, without avoiding the foods that you love? David Oliver, DO, an osteopathic physician from Ocala, Florida provides preventive measures that every family can take to safeguard their health.
Foodborne Illnesses: How to Protect Yourself
According to Dr. Oliver, there are more than 250 different foodborne diseases. Most are infections, caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses and parasites that can be foodborne; and others are poisonings, caused by food contaminated with a harmful chemical. With so many foodborne illnesses, it may seem like a daunting task to stay healthy. “However, it’s not impossible if you take the right precautions,” says Dr. Oliver. “Stay on top of CDC alerts announcing food recalls, learn the common signs of foodborne illness, and practice good judgment when it comes to food preparation and consumption.”
General Guidelines to Prevent Foodborne Illness
With so many foodborne illnesses, how can you avoid them? Dr. Oliver recommends the following measures:
You are at greater risk of getting a foodborne illness if you have a weak or developing immune system. Pregnant women, young children, the elderly, and individuals with chronic health conditions should take special care in avoiding foods that may contain harmful bacteria. Dr. Oliver advises against eating:
“Overall, symptoms of foodborne illness usually appear 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food, but may show up in as little as 30 minutes or up to 4 weeks later,” explains Dr. LAST NAME. “While there are not general symptoms for foodborne illnesses, there are specific symptoms associated with certain ones.”
Start by staying on top of food recalls and reported symptoms
A Closer Look at Listeria & Botulism
There are many opportunities for food to become contaminated as it is produced. Without the proper care and checks, everyday foods can become a hazard to your health. What is your best point of defense? “Start by staying on top of food recalls and reported symptoms,” suggests Dr. Oliver. With listeria and botulism–two foodborne illnesses that have dominated the headlines– there are key symptoms that should ring the alarm. With listeria, a serious, life-threatening infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium (germ) Listeria monocytogenes, symptoms can range from mild to severe. The bacteria can cause high fever, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea; and in severe cases, it can also cause miscarriages and stillbirths in pregnant women. “The faster you can identify these signs, the faster you can receive the proper treatment and increase your chance of avoiding major complications,” says Dr. Oliver.
“Similarly, with botulism, the signs are distinct and worth noting,” says Dr. Oliver. Botulism is a rare, but serious illness caused by a germ called Clostridium botulinum. The germ, found in soil, can survive, grow and produce toxin in a sealed jar of food. Symptoms may include double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty in swallowing, dry mouth or muscle weakness. Botulism is a medical emergency. Left untreated, it can cause paralysis, nerve damage, and in rare instances, death. “If you have symptoms of foodborne botulism, seek medical attention immediately,” stresses Dr. Oliver. “Home-canned vegetables are the most common cause of botulism outbreaks in the United States,” notes Dr. Oliver. If you’re a fan of home canning or consuming these goods, He recommends discarding the canned good if:
To avoid food contamination, He urges all avid canners to utilize:
If you’re unsure whether a canned good underwent proper canning guidelines, throw it away.
Better Safe, Than Sorry
When it comes to food safety, trusting your instincts and taking the appropriate precautions is important. “If you have suspicions about any kind of food, do not eat it,” advises Dr. Oliver. “If you’re unsure whether a canned good underwent proper canning guidelines, throw it away. If you suspect you have a foodborne illness, contact your physician right away. Trusting your instincts could save your life.”
Preventive medicine is just one aspect of care osteopathic physicians provide. DOs are fully licensed to prescribe medicine and practice in all specialty areas, including surgery. DOs are trained to consider the health of the whole person and use their hands to help diagnose and treat their patients.