I had wondered if contacting the state poison control center with foodborne illness concerns is okay. According to an article in the EPI Update for Friday, March 22, 2013 sent out by the Center for Acute Disease Epidemiology (CADE) and Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) they do cover food poisoning. Here is the article:
Iowa Statewide Poison Control Center available 24 hours a day
This week is National Poison Prevention Week, a great time to acknowledge the important, life-saving work done every day by the experts at America’s poison centers. The Iowa Statewide Poison Control Center, serving all 99 counties in Iowa, managed over 54,000 inbound calls last year.
The Center is staffed by registered nurses and medical toxicologists, and provides treatment recommendations for people who have been exposed to pharmaceuticals, household products, chemicals, plants, mushrooms, vaccines, pesticides, heavy metals, snake bites, and food poisoning. About 90 percent of poison emergency calls from the public are treated safely and appropriately at home following the advice of poison center experts.
Iowa’s poison experts are available 24 hours a day at 1-800-222-1222.
Good to know and thanks to the staff at the Iowa Statewide Poison Control Center for their important work.
A new year is full of promise and hope.
- Let’s hope the talk in 2010 about improving the safety of food from farm to fork comes to fruition.
- Let’s hope the Food Safety Modernization Act, which expanded authority for government inspections and established on farm food safety requirements (for producers meeting certain dollar volumes) is funded properly.
- Let’s hope folks realize people practices can make or prevent a foodborne illness outbreak – and act accordingly.
- Let’s hope awareness about food safety translates into actions – and good practices become a habit.
Happy New Year – and a hope your 2011 is foodborne illness free!
You have the power (well, maybe not all the power, but certainly a good deal of it) in protecting yourself from a foodborne illness. Sure you do.
- Do you wash your hands before handling food – preparing or eating?
- Do you wash fruits and vegetables before using?
- Do you keep countertops clean by using clean sponges or dishcloths?
- Do you check that meats are cooked by using a thermometer?
- Do you keep foods that should be kept cold in the refrigerator?
- Do you avoid leaving perishable foods at room temperature for long periods of time?
- Do you buy foods that are not past expiration dates?
- Do you put grilled meat on a clean plate?
If you answer yes to these questions, you are doing a lot of things right. Keep up the good work – you are keeping yourself and your family members safe!
Many baby boomers are now over the age of 60. Welcome folks to the “EPIC” population – those most vulnerable to experiencing a foodborne illness! (Note: The E stands for Elderly – which just doesn’t seem right for this active group.)
It has hit home as my husband is in the first wave of Boomers, now 61 years of age and I am at the tail end of the Boom. As someone cautious about food storage and handling, vigilant about handwashing and recontamination of hands when exiting restrooms, and emphatic about doing it (coughing and sneezing) into my sleeve, I really get irritated at the cavalier approach taken by many (obviously these are folks who firmly believe in the 5-second rule). So I focus on things I can control – that is about all any of us can do. As more Boomers hit the E category, maybe there will be more widespread adoption of these consumer control actions.
Unlike my fellow blogger, Bill Marler (yes, the highly regarded food liability lawyer who blogs), I DO eat hamburgers. In fact (full disclosure here) my family is active in the beef production industry: my husband and daughter are beef producers and on occasion, I work with the state Beef Industry Council on student education programs.
Marler’s recent blogs have commented on President Obama’s cavalier attitude when ordering hamburgers at a restaurant (a restaurant with a low inspection score) and how a “teachable moment” had been missed. I don’t disagree with this – and have long advocated for consumers to take control of situations. Don’t just order burgers cooked to the “medium” stage, specify you want an internal temperature reading of 160° F.
The restaurant should be able to deliver. So if your wait staff member looks confused, gently ask him/her to talk with the manager. You see, according to the licensing guidelines in most states (based on Food Code 2005), a calibrated thermometer should be on hand to check the final temperature. More recent guidelines specify the probe diameter (less than .065 inches) for thin foods (those less than 1/2”). Most hamburger patties fit the less than 2 inch thick description, so the appropriate thermometer should be available to check the temperature. Even better, the restaurant should record that this was done and by whom.
Yes, we have had problems in this country with outbreaks of foodborne illnesses – often due to dubious practices and failure to follow regulations. There needs to be strengthening of compliance – not more rules. Incentives, as Marler suggests, are a great idea – basic motivational research supports that approach. Yet everyone needs to take basic precautions – simply washing hands before eating, avoiding temperature abuse of foods, and cleaning food surfaces properly will go a long way to reducing risks. If President Obama had made a big deal of washing of his hands before eating, and of specifying the temperature of the burgers – that indeed would have been educational.
Another food safety blogger (Doug Powell at KSU) once joked about carrying a thermometer to neighborhood grilling events. I guess that is no different than carrying hand sanitizers around. Seriously though, those are logical actions. In my view, these steps are much more logical than avoiding certain foods just because there is an element of risk – a risk that is mitigated by proper cooking. In fact, there are feces from some species of animals (birds, deer, wild pigs, pets etc) on fresh produce. That is why we wash fresh produce before eating. So fire up the grill and enjoy a juicy hamburger – just cook it completely. Beef – it’s “what’s for dinner” in my house!
Today’s entry is for those of a certain age: mature adults, boomers and Gen Xer’s as many of you may remember that in 1993, there was national interest in an outbreak of E. Coli O157:H7. This outbreak led to major changes in meat inspections and meat processing regulations. The outbreak at Jack-in- the-Box restaurants was a national wake-up call about the devastating impacts of foodborne illness –four young children died from eating hamburgers that were not cooked to a high enough temperature to kill this strain of the bacteria. We grieved with the families of those who died or who suffered life-altering health, and thought “wow, it could have been me”. The young children were most affected because their immune systems were less developed than the adults who had also eaten the same product. The outbreak awakened the country to hidden dangers, and raised awareness of the need to ensure safe food along the food chain.
Real progress has been made in the last 15 years in raising awareness by industry, employees, food producers, processors, government regulators, and consumers about the importance of food safety and proper sanitation. Brave parents of young children who have died due to negligence and priorities of greed over best practice have advocated for tighter controls. Much research, at all links of the food chain, has been conducted. Ideally, research is used in making decisions regarding policies about food production, processing and service regulations.
I am not so naïve that I don’t realize that occasionally greed trumps safety or that politics rather than sound science come into play as part of determining regulations, but generally, I do trust the food supply in the U.S. I personally have no qualms about food items I purchase. But I am vigilant and aware. The price I pay is getting teased (or eye rolls from my family) about having OCD and being overly picky. Small price as I am not much of a risk taker. Those of you whom have traveled elsewhere may have your own stories to tell about food practices – one of mine is the vision of whole chickens for sale hung at tents in market places of hot and humid climates (No sale to this customer).
Reported outbreaks suggest the last links in the food chain are the highest risk – so we ALL must be vigilant at home, and away from home, about taking action steps to minimize this risk. Speak up if you see an unsanitary practice (such as food handlers licking their fingers or not washing their hands). Be a SafeFood© Advocate – for yourself and your family. As the popular song by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young goes: Teach your children well. Hopefully 15 years from today, in 2023, outbreaks of foodborne illnesses will be a thing of the past. The first three people to email me with a comment about this blog will receive a SafeFood© Advocate packet.