Holiday barbecues and picnics are often Fourth of July traditions, but they can be ruined by food poisoning brought on by undercooked meat, foods that stay out in the heat too long and dirty hands that spread contamination, health officials warned.
“Most foodborne illnesses are the result of three problems: handling food with contaminated hands; foods that are not kept at the appropriate temperature; and foods, such as meat and chicken, that are not cooked thoroughly,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, interim health officer for Los Angeles County. “You can help prevent foodborne illness by following some simple food handling tips and cooking meat and other foods to appropriate temperatures.”
He offered the following tips for Southland residents:
— wash hands thoroughly before and after handling food and using the restroom;
— wash fresh fruits and vegetables well before eating or cutting into them;
— separate raw meats and poultry from other foods and always use separate cutting boards and utensils to avoid cross-contamination;
— use a food thermometer to be sure meat and poultry are cooked to safe temperatures;
— keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot and refrigerate leftovers within two hours; and
— don’t `taste test’ foods to see if they have spoiled.
Symptoms of food poisoning include stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea, all of which can start hours or days after eating something contaminated. Most healthy people recover from symptoms within a few hours or days without treatment, but foodborne illness can be severe and even life-threatening in older adults, infants and young children, pregnant women and individuals with weakened immune systems.