The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 6 Americans become ill from food-related illness per year. For people who have chronic conditions, a foodborne illness can be much more difficult to battle and recover from.
Unfortunately, some of the most healthful foods are the ones that are susceptible to carrying a bacterial payload.
Beef and poultry – These products, particularly ground beef and poultry, can harbor pathogens such as salmonella and E. coli. Be sure to cook your beef and poultry products very thoroughly, and use a thermometer to ensure they are fully-cooked, since our eyes can deceive us when it comes to whether something is “done” or not. Here is an excellent guide from the USDA.
Leafy greens – They include foods that are some of the most nutritious. But, they can also harbor bacteria. Whether you purchase your greens whole or pre-bagged/washed, you can still reduce the risks by soaking them in a solution of 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar and water — particularly if you will be consuming them raw. This article details how you can reduce your risks.
Sprouts – They are delicious on salads and sandwiches. The necessary growing conditions for alfalfa sprouts, however, leaves them quite vulnerable to contamination. The CDC advises people who are elderly, pregnant or with weakened immune systems to avoid sprouts altogether. Others can cook the spouts thoroughly to reduce the risks of becoming ill.
Other fresh foods – Other fruits, vegetables and animal products can contain bacteria as well. Washing them carefully, handling them properly, and maintaining the appropriate temperature of the items can help reduce risks significantly. Here is an article from NPR that details some of the steps you can take to ensure you remain free of foodborne illness.
You should also remain vigilant regarding “sell by” or “use by” dates on food items. And, if you are in doubt and believe a product either looks or smells “off” then err on the side of caution and throw it out.
I was surprised to learn that oils, nuts and whole grain flour could become rancid much more quickly than I had realized. This guide from the Chicago Tribune details the risks associated with consuming these items if they have spoiled.
If you do have a suppressed immune system due to either your illness, medications or both, be sure to speak with your physician about your foodborne illness risks. There may be items you should avoid completely or that you simply need to remain more aware of to remain healthy.
I hope your Sunday is not just savory but SAFE as well.