The very food that we need to help us grow and live, could also cause us to become ill and die. Food — we cannot live without it, but it can pose great danger. Let’s look at cold hard reality. Our food supply, our food storage systems and our cooking and eating habits may be responsible for a great deal of misery. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that contaminated food sickens approximately 76 million Americans, leading to some 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.
Food safety is particularly important to anyone with a compromised immune system because we just don’t have the ability to fight infections whether they are bacterial or viral. Certainly people who have had organ transplants fall into that category. Transplant recipients must be especially careful.
As I started to research this posting the first question that popped into my mind was, “Which foods are most likely to make me sick. I found this list of the top ten from the Center for Science in the Public Interest as reprinted in the Fiscal Times
Lettuce and spinach may be on the top of most nutritionists’ lists, but they’re also among the foods most linked to outbreaks of illness. The contaminations often starts at the farm through contact with wild animals or manure.
*Source: The Center for Science in the Public Interest
The risk for salmonella makes eggs the second-most popular source of food-based illnesses. Consumers can protect themselves by fully cooking all eggs and eating or storing eggs promptly after cooking.
Raw or undercooked oysters can breed vibrio bacteria, which can cause mild food poisoning in healthy individuals and life-threatening illness among those with a weakened immune system. Best practices in preparing oysters is to discard any open shells before cooking, and any shells that didn’t open while cooking.
Baked potatoes become breeding grounds for botulism when they’re wrapped in foil and left out to cool too long. Unwrap potatoes after baking them, and store them in a cool, dark place before cooking.
Sticking with pasteurized cheese greatly reduces the risk of bacteria, but some soft cheeses—even those made with pasteurized cheese—are vulnerable to contamination during the cheese-making process.
7) Ice Cream
Everyone may scream for this summer treat, but when it’s made with undercooked eggs the cold stuff can become dangerous. Even store-bought ice cream can breed bacteria when it’s put back in the freezer after unfreezing.
Salmonella can contaminate tomatoes on the farm via the roots, flowers or cracks in the skin. If an infected tomato is eaten raw, it has a high risk of infecting the person who consumers it.
The humid settings ideal for cultivating sprouts are also model conditions for salmonella, listeria and E. Coli. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with a weakened immune systems should avoid eating sprouts all together.
Strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries have been linked to a number of food-borne illness outbreaks in recent year. Last summer, a hepatitis A outbreak the sickened 150 people was traced back to frozen organic berries.
The Importance of Temperature
Inadequate food temperature control is the most common factor contributing to food borne illness. Disease causing bacteria grow particularly well in foods high in protein such as meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, cooked vegetables such as beans, and cooked cereal grains such as rice. Because of the high potential for rapid bacterial growth in these foods they are known as “potentially hazardous foods.”
Temperature Danger Zone
The temperature range at which bacteria grow best in potentially hazardous foods is between 41F. and 140F. The goal of all temperature controls is to either keep foods entirely out of this “danger zone” or to pass foods through this “danger zone” as quickly as possible.
So now you know which foods may pose the greatest threat to your health, but there are other factors that should concern us as well. For example:
America’s food safety system has not been fundamentally modernized in more than 100 years.
Twenty states and D.C. did not meet or exceed the national average rate for being able to identify the pathogens responsible for foodborne disease outbreaks in their states.
Ensuring the public can quickly and safely receive medications during a major health emergency is one of the most serious challenges facing public health officials. Sixteen states have purchased less than half of their share of federally-subsidized antivirals to use during a pandemic flu outbreak.
The main culprits are familiar. They include:
- Salmonella, bacteria that cause over 1.5 million illnesses per year. These commonly reside in uncooked poultry and eggs. Recent outbreaks have been linked to peanut butter, alfalfa sprouts and tomatoes.
- E. coli 0157:H7, a dangerous bacterial strain that can cause kidney failure, turns up disproportionately in ground beef. Lately it’s been linked to spinach and pre-made cookie dough. (For a complete list, see the full report, which details also the geographical distribution of food-borne illnesses in the U.S.) You can read and learn more here http://tinyurl.com/k64har2
There are three types of hazards in a food manufacturing process: physical, chemical and biological. Foreign objects are the most obvious evidence of a contaminated product and are therefore most likely to be reported by production or by consumer complaints. However, they are also less likely than chemical or biological contaminants to affect large numbers of people.
Attributing illness to foods is a challenge for several reasons. There are thousands of different foods, and we eat many varieties prepared in different ways, even in a single meal. For the vast majority of foodborne illnesses, we simply don’t know which food is responsible for an illness.
One way to develop a fairly accurate estimate is to use data collected during investigations of a food illness outbreak. These investigations provide direct links between foodborne illnesses and which foods are responsible for them.
According to the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, there are more than 250 known foodborne diseases. They can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Natural and manufactured chemicals in food products also can make people sick. Some diseases are caused by toxins or poisons from the disease-causing microbe or germ, others are caused by your body’s reaction to the germ.
Types of Foodborne Diseases as supplied by the National Institutes of Health (click on each one for details including symptoms and treatment or click this link for the NIH website http://www.niaid.nih.gov/)
Botulism, Campylobacteriosis, E. coli, Hepatitis A, Norovirus Infection, Salmonellosis, Shigellosis, Prevention
So how do you avoid these unpronounceable diseases? Besides the information provided on the links to each disease, you might also want to make note of the following helpful suggestions
No matter how busy you are, from top to bottom, a clean kitchen is a main line of defense for your family and the prevention of food poisoning. You simply must eliminate the breeding grounds for dangerous bacteria.
- Wash your hands often – front and back, between fingers, under fingernails – in warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds (or two choruses of “Happy Birthday”) before and after every step in preparing or eating foods. That includes your kitchen helpers, such as children.
- Clean all work surfaces often to remove food particles and spills. Use hot, soapy water. Keep nonfood items – mail, newspapers, purses – off counters and away from food and utensils. Wash the counter carefully before and after food preparation.
- Wash dishes and cookware in the dishwasher or in hot, soapy water, and always rinse them well. Remember that chipped plates and china can collect bacteria.
- Change towels and dishcloths often and wash them in the hot cycle of your washing machine. Allow them to dry out between each use. If they are damp, they’re the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
- Throw out dirty sponges or sterilize them by rinsing the sponge and microwaving it for about two minutes while still wet. Be careful, the sponge will be hot.
Pay close attention to the refrigerator and the freezer – shelves, sides and door – where foods are stored. Pack perishables in coolers while you clean or defrost your refrigerator or freezer.
Splatters inside your microwave can also collect bacteria, so keep it clean.
We’ve talked a lot about diseases and illnesses but our health is also subject to physical hazards. You can view a University of Nebraska Slide show on the subject here: http://tinyurl.com/k6k4qow
What is a physical hazard?
We’ve all heard the stories about Rocks, insects and other things showing up in soda and beer cans. While those instances are rare, they still happen. Any extraneous object or foreign matter in food which may cause illness or injury to a person consuming the product is a physical hazard. These objects include bone or bone chips, metal flakes or fragments, injection needles, BB’s or shotgun pellets, pieces of product packaging, stones, glass or wood fragments, insects, personal items, or any other foreign matter not normally found in food.
The 8 most common food categories implicated in reported foreign object complaints are bakery products, soft drinks, vegetables, infant’s foods, fruits, cereals, fishery products and chocolate and cocoa products. Below you will find a list of hazards, their effect and the treatment. You can find more detailed information by clicking on this link http://tinyurl.com/mbktawq
These materials have been found in food and can cause severe trauma, bleeding, cuts and even death. In many cases surgery is required to correct the damage caused by; Glass, wood, stones, bullets, BBs, needles, jewelry, metal, .Insects and other contaminated material, building materials, bone, plastic and personal effects
As with any topic it is sometimes difficult to separate fact from fiction. There are so many rumors, old Wives tales and myths people often think they are doing the right thing when in fact they may be making matters worse. We can’t dispel all the rumors, but we can address a few.
Food Safety Myths Exposed
We all do our best to serve our families food that’s safe and healthy, but some common myths about food safety might surprise you.
MYTH: Food poisoning isn’t that big of a deal. I just have to tough it out for a day or two and then it’s over.
FACT: Many people don’t know it, but some foodborne illnesses can actually lead to long-term health conditions, and 5,000 Americans a year die from foodborne illness. Get the FACTs on long-term effects of food poisoning.
MYTH: It’s OK to thaw meat on the counter. Since it starts out frozen, bacteria isn’t really a problem.
FACT: Actually, bacteria grow surprisingly rapidly at room temperatures, so the counter is never a place you should thaw foods. Instead, thaw foods the right way.
MYTH When cleaning my kitchen, the more bleach I use, the better. More bleach kills more bacteria, so it’s safer for my family.
FACT: There is actually no advantage to using more bleach than needed. To clean kitchen surfaces effectively, use just one teaspoon of liquid, unscented bleach to one quart of water.
MYTH I don’t need to wash fruits or vegetables if I’m going to peel them.
FACT: Because it’s easy to transfer bacteria from the peel or rind you’re cutting to the inside of your fruits and veggies, it’simportant to wash all produce, even if you plan to peel it.
FACT: Actually, rinsing meat, poultry, or seafood with water can increase your chance of food poisoning by splashing juices (and any bacteria they might contain) onto your sink and counters. The best way to cook meat, poultry, or seafood safely is tomake sure you cook it to the right temperature.
MYTH: The only reason to let food sit after it’s been microwaved is to make sure you don’t burn yourself on food that’s too hot.
FACT: In FACT, letting microwaved food sit for a few minutes (“standing time”) helps your food cook more completely by allowing colder areas of food time to absorb heat from hotter areas of food.
MYTH: Leftovers are safe to eat until they smell bad.
FACT: The kinds of bacteria that cause food poisoning do not affect the look, smell, or taste of food. To be safe, use our Safe Storage Times chart to make sure you know the right time to throw food out.
MYTH: Once food has been cooked, all the bacteria have been killed, so I don’t need to worry once it’s “done.”
FACT: Actually, the possibility of bacterial growth actually increases after cooking, because the drop in temperature allows bacteria to thrive. This is why keeping cooked food warmed to the right temperature is critical for food safety.
MYTH: Marinades are acidic, which kills bacteria—so it’s OK to marinate foods on the counter.
FACT: Even in the presence of acidic marinade, bacteria can grow very rapidly at room temperatures. To marinate foods safely, it’s important to marinate them in the refrigerator.
MYTH: If I really want my produce to be safe, I should wash fruits and veggies with soap or detergent before I use them.
FACT: In FACT, it’s best not to use soaps or detergents on produce, since these products can linger on foods and are not safe for consumption. Using clean running water is actually the
FACT: Just a lick can make you sick!
No one of any age should eat raw cookie dough or cake batter because it could contain germs that cause illness. Whether it’s pre-packaged or homemade, the heat from baking is required to kill germs that might be in the raw ingredients. The finished, baked, product is far safer – and tastes even better! So don’t do it! And remember, kids who eat raw cookie dough and cake batter are at greater risk of getting food poisoning than most adults are.
MYTH: When kids cook it is usually “heat and eat” snacks and foods in the microwave. They don’t have to worry about food safety – the microwaves kill the germs!
FACT: Microwaves aren’t magic!
It’s the heat the microwaves generate that kills the germs! Food cooked in a microwave needs to be heated to a safe internal temperature. Microwaves often heat food unevenly, leaving cold spots in food where germs can survive. Kids can use microwaves properly by carefully following package instructions. Even simple “heat and eat” snacks come with instructions that need to be followed to ensure a safe product. Use a food thermometer if the instructions tell you to!
MYTH: When kids wash their hands, just putting their hands under running water is enough to get the germs off.
FACT: Rubbing hands with water and soap is the best way to go!
Water is just part of what you need for clean hands! Washing hands properly is a great way to reduce the risk of food poisoning. Here’s how: Wet your hands with clean, running water and apply soap. Rub them together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of hands, between fingers, and under nails. Continue rubbing for at least 20 seconds. Sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice to time yourself! Rinse hands well under running water. Dry your hands using a clean towel, paper towel, or an air dryer.
MYTH: My kids only eat pre-packaged fruits and veggies for snacks because those snacks don’t need to be washed before they eat them.
FACT: Read your way to food safety!
Giving your kids healthy snacks is a big plus for them! But just because produce is wrapped, it doesn’t always mean it’s ready to eat as is. Read the label of your product to make sure it is says: “ready-to-eat,” “washed,” or “triple washed.” If it does, you’re good to go! If it doesn’t, wash your hands and then rinse the fruits or vegetables under running tap water. Scrub firm items, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush. Dry with a clean cloth towel or paper towel to further reduce germs that may be present.
While federal, state and local agencies provide a valuable service with their contributions to our food safety, the primary responsibility is yours. Too many of us become too careless with our food preparation and storage procedures and each of us needs to pay far more attention to the cleanliness of the areas in which we prepare food and to the cleanliness of the food itself.
Bob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s over 4,000 member Organ Transplant Initiative (OTI) and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs. You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at email@example.com. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love. You can register to be a donor at http://www.donatelife.net. It only takes a few minutes.
In our continuing series on Hepatitic C we offer this story from NBC and the Associated Press 3/14/2007
Public-health workers warn of looming epidemic of ‘silent killer’
Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP
VACAVILLE, Calif. — The most dangerous thing coming out of prison these days may be something most convicts don’t even know they have: hepatitis C.
Nobody knows how many inmates have the disease; by some estimates, around 40 percent of the 2.2 million in jail and prison are infected, compared with just 2 percent of the general population.
Eventually, when they are released, medical experts predict they will be a crushing burden on the health care system, perhaps killing as many people as AIDS in years to come. At the same time, they will be carriers, spreading the disease.
Hepatitis C can be treated, but many prisons do not test for it. Among the reasons: Budgets are tight, and treatment is expensive. So prison officials close their eyes to the gathering emergency and pass it along to the outside world.
“Right now there’s a golden opportunity to bring solutions to this problem before it hits,” said Dr. John Ward, director of viral hepatitis at the National Center for HIV/AIDS at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Hepatitis C is already the most common disease of its sort in the United States — a chronic, life-threatening, blood-borne infection. It is most commonly linked to infected needles used for drugs, though prison tattoos and body piercing with non-sterile equipment are also risky.
What makes this virus particularly insidious is that as many as half of the people who have hepatitis C don’t even know they have it. The “silent killer,” already considered epidemic by the World Health Organization, often remains dormant for decades.
Some of the infected are lucky: One in five people who get hepatitis C will clear it out of their system naturally. But without treatment, one in four will suffer liver failure or develop liver cancer. Last year liver cancer was the only one of the top 10 fatal cancers in this country to increase, in large part because of hepatitis C.
More than $1 billion is already spent each year on this country on hepatitis C, and those costs are expected to soar unless prevention and treatment are expanded.
Without those changes, researchers project that liver-related deaths will triple from around 13,000 in 2000 to 39,000 by 2030. It’s also estimated that 375,000 Americans with hepatitis C will develop cirrhosis by the year 2015.
Anita Taylor, 48, is already there, in end-stage liver disease. Taylor speaks very slowly and moves with care. She often finds that she can’t say the words she wants to — they just won’t come out. Her body hurts most of the time. Her nose bleeds a lot.
‘Doctor gave me a death sentence’
A mother of two and former heroin addict, Taylor said she learned she had hepatitis C when she was jailed in Nevada in 1991 for being under the influence of drugs.
“They tested me and told me I had hepatitis C. They didn’t tell me there was a treatment and a cure,” she said. “And I didn’t know to ask.”
Taylor’s experience is not unusual.
“The doctor gave me a death sentence, recalls Leslie Czirr, a 36-year-old parolee. “He told me, ’There’s no cure for this and you will die from it unless you are hit by a truck first,”’
Czirr learned she had hepatitis C during a prenatal examination in 1996, at a time when she wasn’t in prison. Czirr has been arrested 10 times for drug possession and served almost eight years in prison on various drug possession and dealing charges.
She has started to suffer exhaustion, brain fog and aches. She recently enrolled in a county program to be treated — treatment, she said, she was denied at California’s Norco State Prison.
“I asked and asked, but they barely want to give you a Motrin,” she said. “I really want to get well, not just for myself, but so I’m not putting anyone else at risk.”
Limited studies indicate that fewer than 10 percent of prisoners who have contracted hepatitis C are treated. The reason vary. Medical staff have other priorities, and not all are well-informed about the disease. Prisoners with short sentences are often excluded because they won’t be able to complete treatment, and drug addicts who are inclined to return to risky behavior are often turned away because it is assumed they will simply reinfect themselves.
No funding for treatment
Usually, though, it comes down to money. Prison officials say that even if they wanted to provide the treatment, it is extremely expensive — about $9,500 per patient per year — and no federal funds have been earmarked to pay for it.
“It’s a hard sell to convince taxpayers why additional resources should be spent on the health care of the incarcerated when there are a lot of people who aren’t incarcerated who don’t have adequate health care,” said Dr. Joseph Bick, chief medical officer at the California Medical Facility at Vacaville.
Many of the inmates in Vacaville’s hospice unit — reserved for those given six months or less to live — are dying from hepatitis C-related ailments. Bick said half of the prison’s 3,200 inmates have a history of having been infected with hepatitis C, and at any given time about 40 of those men are receiving the intensive drug treatment to cure it.
“I’m pretty sure this is how I got it,” said Anthony Harris, an inmate at Vacaville. He rubbed his forearm hard, as if trying to remove the prison tattoo bearing his children’s names.
Harris, 51, is a former barber serving a life sentence for second-degree murder. In 2003, a doctor at another prison told him he had Hepatitis C; he researched the disease in the prison library and has sought treatment ever since.
“They gave me shots for Hep A and B, got rid of them. I’d like to get rid of the C too,” he said. “I’m entitled to that. But some docs will give you the treatment and others won’t. I keep making appointments. I keep asking.”
The course of treatment can take a year, and involves taking pills twice a day and weekly injections. Side effects are like those associated with chemotherapy — nausea, exhaustion, depression, debilitating aches and pains — and the cure only works about half the time.
But Bick said the high cost of treating prisoners for hepatitis C is a bargain compared to the bill that would come due if these cases are left untreated. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for us to have an impact on the larger health of the community,” he said.
Dr. Lynn Taylor, an assistant professor of medicine at Brown University’s medical school, agrees that prison is “perhaps one of the best setting for treatment of high-risk individuals.”
‘Window of opportunity’ for public-health efforts
“Prison can be a window of opportunity to reduce the reservoir of infection,” she said.
But there are no federal rules about testing and treating hepatitis C. Federal guidelines, issued by the CDC in 2003, said correctional facilities should “become part of prevention and control efforts in the broader community.” But they don’t recommend screening for all inmates.
Instead, the CDC urged medical staff to ask new inmates about their risk factors, and only those prisoners who seem likely to be exposed should undergo screening, which costs $5 to $10.
The CDC guidelines fell short, said Dr. Josiah Rich, a professor at Brown who directs the university’s Center for Prisoner and Human Rights. Rich’s studies confirm that convicted criminals are almost always willing to be tested for hepatitis C, but will often lie to prison authorities about their past drug use.
“We already know that more than one in three people coming through corrections has Hep C, so by definition everyone coming in is high risk. It’s absurd that they’re not testing everyone,” he said.
Rich concedes that testing every inmate will “jack up costs” for prisons.
“An individual is going to say, ’Hey, you tested me, you said I was positive, and now I want to be treated, and I’m going to sue you if I don’t get treated,”’ he said.
Lawsuits on the rise
Lawsuits are, indeed, on the rise.
The first significant case came in 1999, when officials at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in La Grange, Ky., refused to allow inmate Michael Paulley access to free hepatitis C treatment. Paulley, who was serving a 25-year sentence for rape and burglary, sued and won.
But the treatment came late and he died in 2004, the year he would have been eligible for parole. The litigation prompted broader testing and treatment in Kentucky, but Paulley’s physician, Dr. Bennet Cecil, a Louisville, Ky.-based hepatitis C specialist, said prisoners still die “all the time” for untreated hepatitis C.
“I think it’s immoral if a country, a state a society is going to incarcerate somebody and then deny them necessary medical care. I think that’s an outrage,” he said.
Prisons in at least a dozen states — Alabama, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma and Virginia — are being sued over failure to treat hepatitis C.
But it’s tough going, said Oregon civil rights attorney Michelle Burroughs. Although she’s won a settlement that mandated testing for at risk inmates and treatment for those who are eligible, five of the 10 inmates she’s representing in a class-action lawsuit have died while the litigation proceeds.
“It’s appalling, horrendous, horrifying. Prisoners wait five years just to be evaluated,” she said.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., recently reintroduced legislation that would mandate prison testing and treatment of hepatitis C. Earlier similar proposals in recent years have failed.
“The plain fact is that prisoners do not stay in prison. With more than 90 percent of incarcerated persons returning to their communities, it is clear that when a prisoner is infected, we are all affected,” Lee said.
In North Dakota, it didn’t take legislation, court orders or new regulations to prompt medical services director Kathleen Bachmeier to begin screening every inmate for hepatitis C after a methamphetamine epidemic tripled her state’s prison population in about a decade. As the intravenous drug addicts arrived, so did the hepatitis C.
“It became obvious to me that these people are going to cost the state a lot of money if we don’t do something about it,” she said.
North Dakota now treats anyone who meets certain medical criteria, whose sentence is long enough to complete the course of treatment and who is willing to try to quit using drugs.
“We look at this as a huge public health initiative,” she said.
Bob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s nearly 2,500 member Organ Transplant Initiative and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs.
You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.
Please view our video “Thank You From the Bottom of my Donor’s heart” on http://www.organti.org This video was produced to promote organ donation so it is free and no permission is needed for its use.
If you want to spread the word personally about organ donation, we have another PowerPoint slide show for your use free and without permission. Just go to http://www.organti.org and click on “Life Pass It On” on the left side of the screen and then just follow the directions. This is NOT a stand-alone show; it needs a presenter but is professionally produced and factually sound. If you decide to use the show I will send you a free copy of my e-book, “How to Get a Standing “O” that will help you with presentation skills. Just write to email@example.com and usually you will get a copy the same day.
Also…there is more information on this blog site about other donation/transplantation issues. Additionally we would love to have you join our Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative The more members we get the greater our clout with decision makers.