The federal government is launching a major new education effort to help people recognize and prevent foodborne illnesses, which make more than 76 million Americans sick every year.
On Thursday, The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay shares some of the new guidelines put out by the AMA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Seventy-five percent of all foodborne deaths are caused by just three pathogens:
Symptoms such as stomach cramps, vomiting, head or muscles aches, diarrhea or fever accompany these illnesses. Symptoms typically appear within 12 to 72 hours, but they can occur as quickly as 30 minutes after eating bad food or as long as four days later.
The following people are especially at risk for developing a foodborne illness:
- Young children
- Pregnant women
- People with chronic illnesses
- Older adults
People in each of these categories will typically have weakened immune systems, and therefore their bodies are not able to combat these foodborne illnesses as well as a healthy person's can.
Senay says if you're in the "at risk" category, there are certain foods you should avoid. Foods more likely to make you sick are:
- Raw fish
- Shell fish
- Unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses
- Raw or slightly cooked eggs
- Raw or slightly cooked meats
Senay says the following government guidelines should also be followed:
- Wash hands and surfaces often: Use hot soapy water on both of your hands and on your utensils. Re-wash your hands before going on to the next food item.
- Don't cross-contaminate: Keep your raw meats separate from other foods, such as vegetables. And, if possible, use different cutting boards for meats and vegetables. If you have to use the same one, make sure you wash it with hot, soapy water.
- Cook to proper temperatures: Heat can kill many foodborne illnesses, so make sure you follow the cooking instructions and cook your food at the recommended temperature for the recommended amount of time.
- Refrigerate promptly: Don't let food sit out on the counter for any length of time. This allows bacteria to grow. Be especially careful with egg-based products like mayonnaise.
If you follow the guidelines but still get sick, Senay says to contact your doctor right away or go the emergency room. The good news is that, in most cases, you will get well on your own.