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How to Prevent Food Borne Illnesses

Dec 15, 2014 09:02AM ● By Dia

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By Dr. Josh Prickett, Medical Director, North Tarrant E-Care Emergency Center

A food borne illness such as food poisoning is typically defined as an infection or an irritation of the gastrointestinal tract, commonly referred to as the GI tract. It usually results from eating or drinking something that has a harmful virus, bacteria or a parasite.

While these types of illnesses can be extremely troublesome and require a trip to a local emergency center, symptoms usually subside on their own after a couple of days. However, in some instances they can result in serious complications. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, more than 48 million people suffer some sort of food borne sickness each year. Approximately 325,000 people have to be hospitalized and about 5,200 people die.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that consumers can do a great deal to help prevent these illnesses from occurring. Here are some steps you can take the next time you shop for food to reduce the chances you’ll get sick.

You Can’t Be Too Careful

Any time you shop at a store, take a good look around to make sure it not only looks clean, but smells clean as well. This will make it much more likely that the retailer handles food properly and follows all safety precautions. Closely look at any jars and cans you’re about to buy to make sure they aren’t dented, cracked or bulging. These could be signs that the food is contaminated because it wasn’t processed properly. If, for instance, the lid on a vacuum-packed jar of pickles is loose, that means the seal has been lost and contamination may have occurred.

 Frozen Foods

Don’t ever purchase any sort of frozen food item if you can see any sort of damage to the package. Look for any tears and check to see if any of the edges have been crushed. Pay attention to the frost line in the store freezer and don’t buy any packages that are above that line. If the front of the package is transparent, look for ice crystals or other signs that frost has occurred. The reason is that the food may have been stored too long, or it may have even thawed and been refrozen.

You should make sure that you purchase frozen foods or any perishable items last on your shopping trip. Eggs, fish, poultry and meat should be placed in separate bags so there’s no risk their drippings will contaminate other foods. W

Once you get back home, put your perishable items in the refrigerator or freezer first. The FDA recommends that shoppers follow the “two-hour rule,” meaning perishables should not remain at room temperature for more than two hours. The reason is that harmful bacteria can quickly form on items that are not promptly and properly stored. If you have to make other trips after you go to the grocery store and you believe you may not be home for an hour or more, bring an ice chest to keep your perishables cold.

By taking just a few simple precautions, you can greatly reduce the chances that you’ll experience nausea, stomach pain or any of the other nasty symptoms of a food borne illness.

If you would like to learn more about preventing the spread of food borne illnesses from doctors near Southlake, call E-Care Emergency Centers at 817-281-7277 If you ever need emergency or urgent care, use this convenient form to check in online.



Josh Prickett, MD, is currently medical director for the North Tarrant location of E-Care Emergency Center in North Richland Hills. Dr. Prickett graduated from the University of Oklahoma Medical School and has been practicing emergency care in Oklahoma, Minnesota and Texas since 1989.  He has been married to his wife Carin for 30 years. They have a son Jonathan, a daughter Whitney, and a son-in-law John. Dr. Prickett and his family are actively involved in helping a local church get started and love being a part of the Southlake community.