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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
|Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. |
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But, while warm weather is a perfect setting for outdoor eating, it also provides ideal growing conditions for the bacteria and viruses that cause food borne illness.
It is well known that people should wash their hands before preparing food and that individuals with gastrointestinal illnesses should not be involved in food preparation. But what may not be widely known is how long food can remain outdoors in hot weather before it becomes a health risk.
During these warm weather months, food should only remain in temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit for up to one hour and in temperatures below 90 degrees Fahrenheit for up to two hours.
Commissioner of Health and Senior Services Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. reminds New Jersey residents to take a few simple steps to reduce the risk of food borne illness.
“In the summer, it is especially important to follow safe food handling practices. Harmful organisms can grow quickly when foods are in hot environments for extended periods,” Commissioner Lacy said. “Keep perishable foods stored at proper temperatures in a refrigerator or in a cooler with ice to prevent microorganisms from growing. Cook meats and poultry thoroughly to kill microorganisms that may be present.”
Some 76 million Americans get sick, more than 320,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 die each year from food borne illnesses, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The most common infections are those caused by Campylobacter, Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 – organisms that are found in animals. Norovirus, another common cause of illness, is spread person-to-person, and is not found in animals.
Food borne illnesses can cause fever, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and dehydration. In some cases, they can cause more serious health problems, even fatalities. For example, infection with E. coli O157:H7 can cause severe, bloody diarrhea, kidney failure, other severe complications and death.
The Department of Health and Senior Services offers these suggestions for reducing the risk of food borne illnesses:
For more information on summer food safety, visit the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site, http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety.
Department of Health
P. O. Box 360, Trenton, NJ 08625-0360