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With the Memorial Weekend approaching, take the necessary precautions now to make not only the first holiday weekend one to remember, but the entire summer as well. Food safety for your entire family and friends should be top of mind when preparing for any outdoor festivities, as nobody wants to infect a gathering with bacteria from food products or poor hygiene.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that Salmonella is responsible for 1.35 million infections, 26,500 hospitalizations, and 420 deaths in the US each year. For every person with a Salmonella illness that is confirmed, there are about 30 more where the illness is not reported. In Nebraska, Salmonella is the second most prevalent foodborne illness. Over the last six years, Nebraska has an average of 326 cases annually, with the highest amounts (50%) occurring during the summer months between June-September.
Salmonella can occur from raw poultry, beef, and eggs, and even processed foods, such as nut butters, frozen pot pies, chicken nuggets, and stuffed chicken entrees. It can also be found in unwashed fruits and vegetables, and can be transmitted after handling pets, such as backyard poultry or reptiles.
Symptoms of Salmonella infection include fever, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and possible nausea, vomiting and headache. Symptoms usually begin within six hours but may occur up to six days after infection and symptoms can last anywhere from 4-7 days. Most people get better without any treatment, but infection can be more serious in older adults, infants, pregnant women and those with chronic health problems. If the bacteria gets into the bloodstream, it can be serious and life-threatening.
As we head into warmer weather remember that unrefrigerated foods create ideal conditions for bacteria to grow. Refrigerate or freeze perishables (foods likely to spoil or go bad quickly), any prepared foods, and leftovers within two hours (or one hour if the temperature outside is 90°F or hotter) is recommended. Use a food thermometer to ensure meat is cooked well enough to kill bacteria. You can't tell just by looking at it! (145°F for beef, pork, fish; 160°F for hamburgers and ground meat; 165°F for chicken or turkey). Always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before preparing and handling food and after touching raw meat or poultry. Encourage family and friends to wash their hands before eating to reduce spread of illness between people.