An Ugh! Bug
Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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An Ugh! Bug

On Saturday my hubby and I stopped at a sub shop for lunch while running errands. We ordered the exact same veggie sandwich (although he can afford to eat a lot more – my lucky prince-charming burns about 1,000 more calories per day than I do due to his size – so unfair!). Anyway, a few hours later, both of our tummies were gurgling, and by evening we were hurting (I’ll spare you the details but let me tell ya, it wasn’t pretty).

I decided to include this photo today because I wish foodborne illness came with a warning sign (and because any other pics would have been way too gross!). The unfortunate fact is, we can’t see, smell, or taste the germs in food that make us sick. Isn’t that amazing? It would be SO great if the old sniff test worked, or if our eyeballs or taste buds could detect those nasty little bacteria before they hit our bellies - but that’s not the case. And that’s precisely why so many of us get sick. According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), millions get sick, about 325,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 die each year from foodborne illness in the U.S.

The good news is foodborne illness is largely avoidable. The source of our unfortunate incident could have been improper hand washing (or none at all – ugh, so disgusting I don’t even want to think about it!), cross contamination (like raw meat juices touching veggies via a knife or cutting board), or even improper storage (like fragile foods being kept in a too warm fridge) – all preventable.

And the stay safe steps are easy to accomplish. Whether at home or within restaurants, the ADA’s following four rules are akin to foodborne illness WMDs:
-Wash hands often – with warm, soapy water, long enough to sing two choruses of Happy Birthday while lathering, up to your wrists and including your fingernails. This step alone could wipe out nearly half of all cases!
-Keep raw meats and ready-to-eat foods separate – use two cutting boards and separate utensils, and don’t touch veggies or foods that won’t be cooked after touching raw meat.
-Refrigerate promptly below 40 degrees F – use a fridge thermometer to be sure it’s below 40 – if your fridge is above 40, your food is sitting smack in the “danger zone,” the temperature at which bacteria grow rapidly (think multiplying like bunnies only a zillion times faster).
-Cook to proper temperatures – not doing so means those bugs don’t die! For a temperature chart (which varies by food) click here.

Oh, if only everyone (including restaurant workers) would comply, the world would be a much safer (and happier) place. I think I’ll be eating at home for a while! For more info on this “sickening” topic, check out these great food safety sites:
-Food Safety
-Home Food Safety

P.S. This sign stood about 30 feet from the booth I manned (err, womanned?) at a health fair Saturday morning. Being a native northeasterner, I’m still stunned by Florida stuff like this!
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Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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