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Five poisons hiding in your food

How to ward off foul fare

From farm to table, your food may be compromised along the way. About one in six Americans get sick from contaminated food every year. Here are five major offenders that can sneak in and sour your stomach, plus some common places they hide.

Salmonella
The most common cause of food poisoning, salmonella is a group of bacteria that causes over one million illnesses, resulting in $365 million in medical expenses, each year. Nearly half of all contaminated foods are poultry and eggs. In 2009, salmonella cracked its way into peanut butter and packaged foods made with peanuts.

Listeria
This bacteria, found in soil and water, infiltrated cantaloupes in 2011. Listeria can contaminate fresh produce, unpasteurized dairy (yogurt, brie and feta), deli meat and hot dogs.

E. coli
Recently, E. coli has contaminated romaine lettuce and sprouts. E. coli usually preys on ground beef, unpasteurized milk and juice (like ciders sold at farmers markets), and fresh produce.

Campylobacter
Mother taught us to never eat undercooked chicken; campylobacter is why. This infectious disease is one of the most common causes of diarrheal illness in the U.S.

Norwalk virus
Norwalk virus, norovirus or “stomach flu” can happen when a food handler doesn’t wash his or her hands. “'Employees must wash hands before returning to work' signs help remind employees of the steps to take to stop the spread of this virus."

How can you prevent serving food that may be contaminated?

  • Always wash your hands in warm water with soap.
  • Use a clean cutting board and preparation utensils. Avoid cross contamination by using different boards and instruments for meat, poultry, and fruits and vegetables.
  • Thoroughly wash all produce before preparing or eating, including the skins that you may not eat. The cantaloupe contaminated with listeria carried the bacteria on the skin, and was then transferred to meat after the fruit was sliced.
  • Do not serve unpasteurized dairy to those with compromised or underdeveloped immune systems (those who are ill, very young or elderly).
  • Cook food to a safe internal temperature immediately after thawing. Important note: Bacteria will multiply rapidly between 40⁰ F and 140⁰ F.
  • Immediately refrigerate or freeze leftovers. Throw away food that has been sitting out for over two hours.

For more information on eating smart, visit the “Healthy Eating” section of Fit Facts. FoodSafety.gov lists the latest recalls and provides helpful articles about food safety practices.


GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention welcomes the opportunity to share this general information. However, this article is not intended to be relied upon as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.