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How to Avoid Foodborne Illness

By Kristina Steinberg, RD


I know that foodborne illness may not be the most exciting topic, but since much of the subject matter in our newsletter is centered around food, I think it is very important to learn what it is and how to avoid it.


Who can contract it? Anyone can get it but certain groups of people with compromised immune systems are more susceptible: the elderly, pregnant women, infants/young children, people with weakened immune systems due to illness: HIV, AIDS, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, transplant patients and people with autoimmune disease.


What is it? Foodborne illness is preventable and happens after eating contaminated food. The onset of illness can happen immediately but also up to 2 weeks after exposure to the contaminated food. Symptoms can last 1-14 days as well. Symptoms can be mild or severe enough to cause death. Typical symptoms include: nausea, vomiting, (watery) diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fatigue, weight loss, headache and fever. Symptoms can mimic flu-like symptoms which is one reason that food-borne illness is often underreported. According to the CDC, foodborne illness is responsible for 48 million illnesses/3,000 deaths annually in the U.S.


Why does it happen? Causes include: bacteria or pathogens (disease causing microorganisms) in food, unsafe cooking practices/cross-contamination between raw and cooked foods, poor hand hygiene, and improper food storage and cooking techniques. 


How to prevent it?  The below links are helpful for explaining ways to prevent a foodborne illness from happening.


Hand hygiene is an effective way to prevent foodborne illness. Hands should be washed frequently. The CDC has good information on proper handwashing. Click here to read more.


Avoiding cross contamination is another way to prevent food borne illness. Click here to read more

Keeping food out of the “Danger Zone” is also critical. Click here to read more.


Other helpful Links for additional information:


Resources:  Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; ;;;