The risk of foodborne illnesses increases in the summer when temperatures are warmer and people are more likely to be cooking outside at picnics, barbeques, and on camping trips and exposing themselves to bacteria that might not be so friendly. It’s always important to use safe practices when handling and preparing food. You can minimize your family’s risk of food poisoning by following some simple guidelines about food safety.
- Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often to avoid the spread of bacteria.
- Separate: Keep raw foods separate from cooked foods to avoid cross-contamination of bacteria.
- Chill: Keep cold food cold. Letting food sit at unsafe temperatures puts you at risk for bacteria growth and foodborne illnesses.
- Cook: Make sure you kill harmful bacteria by cooking food until it reaches the proper temperature. Don’t guess! Take a digital instant read food thermometer along to check when meat and poultry are safe to eat. Don’t add extra marinade within the last 5 minutes of cooking. Marinades also need to be safely cooked before consuming. Discard any leftover marinade. Don’t try to re-use it for another dish or another day. (The safe temperatures for cooked foods are: 71º C (160º F) for ground beef; 74º C (165º F) for leftover food; 85º C (185º F) for whole poultry)
Here are some extra steps you can take to minimize the risks of food borne illnesses in the summertime:
- Always carry food for a picnic or outing in a cool bag with some ice bricks or frozen cartons of fruit juice to help keep it cool. Food should be kept in the cool bag until ready to be eaten, and raw foods such as meat should be kept separately from ready-to-eat foods.
- Cover your foods when not serving them to avoid attracting bugs.
- Keep food that is supposed to be cool in the cooler after use; don’t leave it sitting out to spoil.
So What About That Fly?
Flies around the world eat nectar, plant sap, blood, other insects, and decaying matter. The species of flies that we call houseflies like to eat OUR food! If flies eat food from garbage cans or any other source of germy food, some of those germs and bacteria stick to the fly’s mouth and when the fly has its next snack (your sandwich?), it transfers those germs and bacteria.
Houseflies spread germs in other ways, too. The trouble is – houseflies breed in and around manure piles, garbage, and rotting flesh. Flies have sticky pads on their feet, and every time a fly lands on something in our home or on your food, and walks around on it, they leave behind germs and bacteria from the last place they visited. Scientists have estimated that houseflies carry around 1,941,000 different kinds of bacteria. So, wipe your counters down and keep your food covered to avoid the possibility of contamination from flies.
Another thing you can do to protect yourself is to ensure that you have a strong and healthy immune system. Supplement with good bacteria! Supplementing with good bacteria (probiotics) is the easiest way to build up your good bacteria and keep your immune system strong. Eating yogurt is not enough so here are a few things to look for when choosing a probiotic supplement:
1. Look for high culture count in a probiotic.
The culture count refers to the total amount of live, friendly bacterial cultures in a single serving. Some people may need a higher amount depending upon age or health-related concern.
2. Check out the number of strains of a probiotic.
There are over 1,000 strains of beneficial bacteria in the gut. A good rule of thumb is that a variety of strains more closely resembles the diversity that naturally exists in the gut. Look for the naturally occurring strains that begin with Ls and Bs, like lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. A good way to remember is that the L strains are good for the little (small) intestine. The B strains are good for the big (large) intestine or colon. It’s also important to get a variety of strains because each person’s body has a different bacterial footprint and utilizes some bacterial strains better than others. Cover all the bases with one supplement for best results.
3. Make sure the capsule is designed for delayed release of the probiotics.
Probiotics must travel through the harsh stomach environment and be delivered to the intestines to be effective. If they never make it through the stomach acid, they won’t do you any good. Delayed-release capsules are enteric coated to remain intact through the stomach and begin dissolving in the intestine where the pH is more alkaline and where they are needed most
4. Look for potency of the probiotics at time of expiration, not manufacture.
Any probiotic is fresh when manufactured, but very few remain at full strength through their expiration date. A probiotic supplement, when delivered to the right place in the intestinal tract, with the right amount of cultures and strains, can help promote digestive health, bowel regularity and strengthen the body’s natural immune defenses.
Other Ways to Support Immunity
- Wash your hands regularly
- Get plenty of sleep
- Drink lots of water
- Eat a healthy diet of whole foods like fruits, veggies, grains, nuts, seeds and lean meats.
- Avoid processed foods and sugar (sugar in any form quickly suppresses the immune system by paralyzing white blood cells)
- Supplement with a good multivitamin
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Stop smoking
- Reduce and manage stress
Keeping healthy during the summer season is all about being aware, being proactive and probiotics go a long way to help keep your immune system strong.