You Can Avoid The 24 Hour Flu

Posted on May 3, 2008 by Melissa 
Filed Under Food, Medical

Didn’t I ask to hold the Shigellosis on mine?You know why? Because it really doesn’t exist.

Most likely what you were experiencing was a bout with foodborne illness. No joke.

Why am I talking about foodborne illness on this here blog? Well, as we all know, medical care is expensive. With food prices on the rise more people are cooking at home to help stretch their dollar. Learning how to prevent our home cooked meals from making our families ill can save us valuable funds and sick time.

The CDC estimates that there are about 76 million cases of foodborne illness every year; with 325,000 serious enough to require hospitalization. Even if most of the cases are mild and go away after a few days that’s still a lot of downtime for the American worker.

Think it’s all from shady restaurants? Probably not.

The odds are that many cases of foodborne illness start in our very own kitchens.

At least restaurants (hopefully) have the proper equipment, training, and monitoring to reduce their risk of serving up a plate of foodborne illness. Who is teaching the home cook about proper sanitation? Is anyone performing inspections to make sure you are cooking and storing your food correctly?

I learned some really interesting things in my sanitation class that could actually benefit us home cooks. I’m far from a germ-o-phobe but I’m much more conscious of my practices now. I’ve already changed some of my cooking habits after learning a bit more about how to prevent potential illness.

Reduce your chances of serving a side of salmonella with your chicken pot pie with these tips:

Stop cross contamination. The biggest source of cross contamination is from your hands. Wash your hands (along with your cutting board AND knives/utensils) with soap every time you change foods. Simply wiping your board after cutting up raw chicken isn’t enough. Wash it and dry it with single use paper towels. I like to use a sanitizing spray for my surfaces, too.

Think about how you store your food. Don’t place your raw chicken on the top shelf where juices could drip down and contaminate other food or surfaces. You should always try to place cooked or ready-to-eat foods above and away from raw foods.

The industry stores food (top to bottom):

Cook your food properly. Heat can kill many of the pathogens that cause illness. The only way you can definitively know that your food is cooked to the recommended internal temperature is with a thermometer. You can find a nifty brochure containing the USDA’s temperature guidelines here. Oddly enough, some of the USDA’s current recommendations are higher than what is in my book for pork and ground meat.

Avoid the danger zone. The “danger zone” refers to the temperature range that bacteria multiply rapidly in; currently that temperature range is 41 F to 135 F. Food exposed to this temperature range for 4 hours or longer could accumulate enough bacteria to cause illness.

An example of this time/temperature abuse is leaving your thanksgiving meal out on the table all afternoon. Put away leftovers promptly and keep them below 41 F. If food sits out, especially longer than 4 hours, toss it.

Thaw safely. There’s a reason why you aren’t supposed to set that frozen turkey on the counter to thaw. By the time the center starts to warm up the surface has already been in the bacteria-friendly danger zone for too long. That’s just no good. The best ways to thaw food are:

Wash all your fruits and veggies. Just do it. Many bacteria and viruses can be spread through contaminated soil, water, or equipment that has touched your food. Before using your veggies make sure to thoroughly wash them. I always wait to wash them until immediately before use to lower my chances of food spoilage.

Do you have any home food sanitation advice or concerns?

Image Source: kaibara87


13 Responses to “You Can Avoid The 24 Hour Flu”

  1. patti on May 3rd, 2008 4:52 pm

    I thought we were safe, being vegetarian. I am very cognoscente of hygiene, but should we be washing veggies with more than tap water?

  2. FatSusie on May 5th, 2008 8:59 am

    I would disagree that a restaurant kitchen is safer than your own. There are far more people and far more opportunities for cross contamination in a restaurant kitchen than in your own. The less hands your food passes through (and this includes processing, delivery, etc), the safer it will be–which is just another great reason to buy local!

  3. SavingDiva on May 5th, 2008 9:58 am

    I wash my vegetables as soon as I bring them home. If I bought stuff to make a salad, I will make a huge salad in a giant glass pyrex bowl. It makes it a lot easier for me to have something to eat quickly (avoid grabbing junk food) and make sure that I clean veggies.

  4. Katie Meyer on May 19th, 2008 7:44 pm

    Interesting! I learned a lot from your post!

  5. Jerry on May 23rd, 2008 9:12 am

    I work part time at a hospital, and I see patients with serious diseases (MRSA, VRE, etc.) all the time. When they are released from the hospital, I then often run into some of these same patients in the grocery store, handling produce.
    So… YES, that leads me to consistently wash my fruits and veggies! Even better, I like to buy them from the orchard when I can… it gives some insurance of quality goods, supports local agriculture, and avoids the exposure to the general public (and their germies).

  6. stocks(new comment) on September 15th, 2008 10:13 pm

    My wife washes all the fruit and vegetables when she brings them home, and before we eat them or give them to our kid.
    Unfortunately, I think our kid gets us sick more that anything else, because parents take their sick kids to school, and gets ours sick and he brings it home.
    We are a big fan of always washing our hands, not quite OCD, but borderline.
    Plus, whenever I feel something coming on, a gallon of OJ usually fights it off.. food for thought..

  7. save and go green(new comment) on November 1st, 2008 9:25 am

    The biggest thing to make sure to stop the spreading of germs is to wash everything to uses, including the outside of things like bananas and oranges. Also, washing your hands after touching meats and eggs.

  8. stephanie(new comment) on December 3rd, 2008 10:29 am

    I would have to disagree about there being no 24 hour flu. My whole family is being swept by it right now, and we never ate the same thing. It started with one of my cousins about a week ago, sudden onset of vomiting and diarrhea, and withing 8 hours, was gone. 2 days later her brother and sister got it. The next day her mom got it, followed by her dad about 12 hours later. Then it hit my fiance about 3 days ago, and has just now hit me. Explain that.

  9. Sophie(new comment) on December 31st, 2008 10:25 am

    I completely agree. As for the previous comment, I’ve read that food born illness can also be passed via the oral-fecal route. Nasty thought, but even if someone vomits near you, and you inhale some of it in the air, you’re at risk of getting sick. You can even get salmonella by touching a door nob that someone else touched after having used the restroom without washing their hands.

    I agree with the facts in this post; fingers crossed, I rarely get stomach viruses, even when my little brother used to get them, precisely because I’m so anal about washing my hands and making sure the surfaces my food touch are clean. However, I’ve gotten sick after sharing a drink with him even the day before he comes down with symptoms!

    Great post!

  10. isa savings(new comment) on January 15th, 2009 4:01 am

    It’s that time again in the UK and everyone around me must have caught this horrible virus. I will stick to your advice and see if I get immune.

  11. Meeting rooms(new comment) on February 5th, 2009 4:43 am

    Apparently, flu has gone but the snow is back with severe cold. Cover up and be careful of the icy pavements.

  12. Dr. Josh stanford(new comment) on March 15th, 2010 6:44 am

    24 HOUR FLU is also caused by bacteria from pet animals…for example dog’s saliva.

  13. Natalie Office Chairs(new comment) on May 3rd, 2010 3:46 am

    I do agree with some of the points made but seriously, a cold or the flu, will get you at some point, one can’t really avoid making contact with someone that has the virus.

    Good article all the same.


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