The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) has been busy investigating many reports of several different types of foodborne illness in June. While work continues to pinpoint the causes of these illnesses, IDPH has received reports of a possible case of botulism; campylobacter illness likely associated with raw milk; salmonella illnesses, possibly associated with incorrectly handled meat; and listeriosis. All of these foodborne diseases are serious and can cause hospitalization and death.
As the Independence Day holiday nears, IDPH reminds Iowans to keep food safety in mind at picnics and barbeques. “When large gatherings like holiday-related picnics and meals happen, we typically hear about people getting ill with diarrhea and vomiting from foodborne illnesses,” said IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. “Most of these illnesses are caused by foods that are improperly cooked or stored.”
To make sure you, your family, and friends have a healthy holiday, remember the following tips:
- Cook all meats thoroughly; especially ground meats like hamburgers and sausages (like bratwursts). Use a meat thermometer to ensure the middle of the meat has reached a temperature that will kill the organisms that can make us sick. Cook chicken to 165 F, ground meats like hamburger to 160 F, and whole meats like steaks or pork chops to 145 F.
- Marinate foods in the refrigerator - not on the kitchen counter or outdoors. In addition, if you plan to use some of the marinade as a sauce on the cooked food, set aside a portion before adding the raw meat, poultry, or seafood. Don’t reuse marinade as this can re-contaminate the food.
- Cook thoroughly and immediately after "partial cooking." If you partially cook food in your kitchen to reduce grilling time, do so immediately before the food goes on the hot grill.
- Keep hot foods hot. Grilled food should be kept hot until served.
- Don't reuse platters or utensils. Using the same platter or utensils that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood allows bacteria from the raw food’s juices to spread to the cooked food. Instead, have a clean platter and utensils ready at grill-side to serve your food.
- Keep cold foods cold. Keep foods that come out of the refrigerator at cold temps until ready to serve. This includes foods like potato salad, coleslaw, and condiments like mayonnaise.
- Have a way to wash your hands prior to eating. For example, if picnicking, bring soap and water or hand wipes so that everyone can clean their hands before they eat.
For more information on preventing foodborne illness, visit www.idph.state.ia.us/Cade/Foodborne.aspx.