Food Safety During the Holidays
Published by Contra Costa Times
Posted on Wed., December 10, 2008
By Sherman Quinlan
Preparing food for family and friends is a big part of the holiday spirit. And few things deflate your pride faster than learning that your friends or family fell ill after eating your home-cooked food.
There are an estimated 76 million cases of food-borne illness in the United State s every year. Most of these cases are mild and last fewer than two days. However, the CDC estimates that there are 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths each year in the United States related to food-borne illness.
In January 2008, in Contra Costa County, a food-borne illness outbreak at a popular restaurant involved more than 50 ill patrons. The outbreak occurred when a sick food worker contaminated food served to the diners. Inadequate hand washing, and unsanitary utensils and surfaces contributed to the contamination by the Novovirus (see previous Healthy Outlook column).
Keeping your food safe is not difficult, but it requires a little extra time and effort.
Avoid contaminating your food.
Keep raw meat, chicken and seafood separate from other foods.
Cook your food thoroughly.
Chill your food properly.
Lastly, notify health officials.
If you suspect a food-borne illness, you should call your local health department at 925-692-2500.
Pregnant women, the elderly and those with weak immune systems are more likely to develop severe complications from food-borne illness, so be extra careful when preparing and handling food for them.
If you are concerned about eating out during the holidays, you can check the health inspection records of most restaurants. Contra Costa Health Services inspects food facilities and posts results on its website, www.cchealth.org.
When you know your favorite restaurant has no major violations of health standards, you can enjoy the eating experience with confidence.
Mr. Quinlan is director of the Environmental Health Division of Contra Costa Health Services, the county health department. Healthy Outlook is written by the professional staff of Contra Costa Health Services, the county health department. Send questions to series coordinator Dr. David Pepper at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more health information, go to www.cchealth.org.