|On Food "Poisoning"||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: Joani Blank (jeblankic.org)|
|Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2000 02:01:13 -0700 (MST)|
In the sixties when I went to a School of Public Health, I was required to take a microbiology course where I learned about diseases caused by bugs that grow in food when it is handled improperly. The bottom line lessons were pretty simple, and I think that they still apply today. 1. The most common food-borne "infection," NOT "poisoning," is caused by a bacterium called Salmonella which much poultry is full off when it is raw, and which is sometimes on the outside of eggs but not often there because the bacteria needs moisture to survive and the outside of eggs is usually pretty dry.. These wee beasties multiply rapidly in your tummy, usually making you feel pretty bad 10-14 hours after you eat them. They cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea and you can feel pretty icky for up to a day afterward. Just about the only time that these bugs get into what's on your plate is when cooked chicken (bugs are dead) or salad greens are placed or cut up on a surface that has not had the raw chicken juices cleaned off adequately. Soap and moderately hot running water and a "scratchy cloth" does quite an adequate job, no matter what the surface, and soap and water on any knives that were used on the raw chicken. Chemicals or dishwasher-hot water for X minutes are not necessary. 2. Then there's Staphylococcus (spelling?) aka Staph which actually produces a toxin--now this is more like poisoning to me. The toxin is not destroyed by heat though the staph itself is, but that's kind of irrelevant because this is the one you get sick with if you eat potato salad or cream pies that have been left out in the sun at the church picnic for hours. Staph causes the same symptoms as salmonella (plus stomach cramping if I recall rightly) but they are much more severe and have a much faster onset--2 to 4 hours if I recall correctly. I think one typically recovers faster too. They used to say that when you get this it's not like you think you are dying, but that you wish you would die. Staph--not usually from food--is what kills people in hospitals, but that is primarily because hospitalized people are already weakened by illness or surgery and cannot fend off the big bad germs and their toxins. The moral of the story is don't leave stuff with mayonnaise or similar substances out in the sun--or even on the kitchen counter if it is in the middle of a hot summer day--for a long time. As far as that chicken or turkey is concerned., if, after it comes out of the oven or off the grill, it doesn't come in contact with raw chicken leavings, it could stay on the kitchen counter for days without growing salmonella again. The same thing is true of bacterial growth in pasteurized dairy products. You can leave it unrefrigerated for days, until it's really sour, but the bacteria have all been killed by the pasteurization. Of course various kinds of bacterial cultures are introduced into pasteurized milk to make sour cream and yogurt, but that just makes it yummy, not dangerous. 3, E. (escherichia?) coli is in the intestinal tracts of mammals and humans, and does show up ground red meat from time to time. I believe recent outbreaks have been traced to meat processing plants, not to bad food handling practices at restaurants or in people's homes. If there is an outbreak in your area, just be sure you don't serve steak tartare, or rare burgers and you'll be okay. Whole pieces of meat are not a problem because the bad beasties from the intestines will only be on the outside where the butcher's knives smeared them around, and that part will get cooked even if you just sear your steak. Also probably a good idea to clean surfaces where raw meat has been lying before cutting veggies or fruit that's going to be eaten raw on the same surface. Cooking kills e. coli. If I'm off base about any of this (after all it's been 35 years since I learned it) I'm sure one of you smart people will correct me. Joani Blank Soon-to-be resident of Old Oakland CoHousing @ Swan's Market where I may never eat a common meal because we'll have about 100 restaurants within four or five blocks of home (including Oakland's wonderful Chinatown). Just kidding.
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