The Montgomery Township Health Department, which serves the Boroughs of Pennington and Hopewell, has seen an increase in the number of foodborne illnesses in our area, especially over the past month. Foodborne illnesses like e. coli, salmonella, giardiasis, and campylobacter can pose serious health risks and may take several weeks to treat. Spoiled food can make a person sick any day of the year, but warm weather and summer barbeque picnics make the problem more common.
According to Stephanie Carey, Montgomery Township Health Officer, “We are seeing a rising number of food-related illnesses for a few reasons – bacteria grows rapidly in warm and humid settings, and preparing food and eating outdoors makes it harder to follow simple safety rules.”
“When we see increased incidences of foodborne illnesses, we investigate each case separately, looking for trends that may link two or more cases together. However, we often find that summer is the peak season for foodborne-related illnesses due to vacations, travel, and grilling or eating outdoors,” said Brianna Retsis, the Township’s Public Health Nurse. “Health education is key to preventing the spread of these illnesses that are mostly spread by the oral-fecal route. Simple measures, such as proper hand washing and food-handling techniques, can prevent foodborne illness or food poisoning.”
Signs and Symptoms of Foodborne Illness include:
|Abdominal Cramps||Weight Loss|
|Severe (often bloody) Diarrhea||Loss of Appetite|
The Health Department encourages four simple food safety tips:
- Wash hands and surfaces often. Unwashed hands are a prime cause of foodborne illness. Hands should be washed with warm, soapy water before and after handling food.
- Don’t cross-contaminate. Separate raw meats and uncooked food from ready-to-eat food.
- Cook to proper temperatures. Cooking at high enough temperatures will kill harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness.
- Refrigerate promptly. Food left out of refrigeration for more than 2 hours may not be safe to eat.
For more information, see USDA: www.FoodSafety.gov or Fight BAC at www.fightbac.org/summer-1/. For questions or more information, please contact the Montgomery Township Health Department at (908) 359-8211.