The holiday season is a time that many of us graze around-the-clock on Christmas sweets, baked treats and the fixins' of a full-out meal. That can unfortunately take our merriment away if the food is not prepared or served properly.
In the cafeteria serving line at Women & Children's Hospital in Lake Charles, Food Services Director, Debbie Gary, runs the show.
She knows a thing or two about safe food handling and says it is those that do not that find themselves getting sick. "If foods are allowed to stay between 40 and 140 degrees, bacteria rapidly grows that can cause food borne illnesses," she said.
Food borne illnesses are commonly called "food poisoning" and can have you feeling miserable. Dr. Tolvert Fowler with Lake Area Family Medicine says the symptoms can range from mild to sever, "Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain," he said.
D. Fowler says contaminated food products are typically to blame. "Food borne illness is usually a bacterial or irritation of the gastrointestinal tract," he said.
To reduce your risk of food borne illnesses, start with a clean surface. "It is very important to clean your utensils and your cutting board surfaces in your area before you go to the next item," said Gary.
Gary also says to handle raw meat separately to cut back on cross contamination and pay special attention to the temperature of the food you are about to serve. "If the temperature is 90 degrees or above, food needs to be chilled below 40 degrees within one hour of preparation. If the temperature is below 90, then you do have two hours," she said.
Food thermometers are not the only safety tools you will want inside your kitchen. You will also want to have a freezer and refrigerator thermometer, ensuring that all of the food stored inside is at a safe temperature. "The temperature for a refrigerator needs to be 32-40 degrees and for a freezer it needs to be below 32 degrees," said Gary.
Gary says following these tips will allow you to enjoy all of the holiday trimmings - without a trip to the doctor.
You should see a doctor if you cannot hold down fluids, have severe abdominal cramping or diarrhea and a high fever. Mild cases can be treated at home with extra fluids and electrolytes.