Orlando, Fla., January 2018— Whether we eat outside or at home, there are a few facts that we must keep in mind when we select our choices.
For example, raw fruits and vegetables could be easily contaminated with a bacteria called listeria. It can contaminate fresh produce as well as some processed foods, like cheeses. The symptoms may occur from two days to two months after exposure and include fever, muscle aches, upset stomach or diarrhea.
If you want to avoid contamination you may scrub raw produce and dry it before cutting. Store in fridge below 40º F and clean everything that may have been in contact with whole melons.
Also, unpasteurized dairy products made with raw milk can harbor listeria. Products like yogurt and soft cheeses like Brie, feta and Mexican cheese are particularly exposed. Even when these foods are stored in refrigeration the bacteria may be present because listeria can live in colder temperatures. People with highest risk to get sick by it include the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems. To prevent this make sure you read the label and it is marked as “pasteurized.”
This one might be really shocking but here it is. When you eat deli meats and hot dogs, keep in mind that sometimes, listeria finds its way into food procession factories and live there for years. For that reason you must never use pre-cooked or ready-to-eat foods past their use-by-date. Hot dogs and lunch meats must be heated until steaming at 165 F before eating.
Processed foods like chips, crackers, soups, peanut butter and even frozen meals may pose a slight risk for salmonella infection.
It is important to pay attention to product recalls and immediate throw it away or return it if you suspect the product has been infected. To receive alerts on product recalls and safety alerts you may visit the FDA and USDA resources.
Raw meat can be another source of salmonella, especially ground meat and turkey, even when it looks and smells good. To prevent contamination, you must cook beef, pork and lamb to at least 145 F and poultry to at least 165 F and avoid cross contamination washing your hands and surfaces with soap and water after contact.
Fresh produce is also exposed to salmonella infections, but by now you already learned that in oder to prevent contamination with listeria too, you must wash and dry it and keep it refrigerated at 40º F.
Last but not least, never eat raw or lightly cooked eggs. Animal products that may have been in contact with feces are at a greater risk. For example, chickens can infect eggs before the shells forms, so even when you clean them, fresh eggs may still harbor salmonella. You should always wash your hands, countertops, utensils and cutting boards after contact.
We will continue to elaborate on this subject in future blog posts so stay tuned with us for more.