Foodborne Illnesses: What You Need to Know


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MASON CITY, IA – Our area has seen some recent outbreaks of food borne illnesses.

First it was the rare cyclospora and now there are several reports of salmonella food poisoning in north Iowa.

Summer usually brings fresh foods and cookouts, but it also tends to bring an uptick in food borne illnesses.

Currently 15 states have reported cases of cyclospora, a rare parasite that is caused by fecal matter on food being consumed.

Iowa leads the pack with more than 140 cases.

“Unfortunately, the prevention technique for dealing with cyclospora is just don’t eat it in the first place,” says Brian Hanft with the Cerro Gordo Department of Public Health.

Which is easier said than done, since washing the food doesn’t always get rid of the tiny parasite.

One illness that is easy to prevent is salmonella poisoning.

“Not only do you want to cook those raw meats up to the right temperature, you don’t want to spread those raw meats onto your fresh fruits and veggies that you may have just washed up so I always like to recommend to do all those other foods like your breads and fruits and veggies cut those up first,” says Amy Kirchhoff, a dietitian at Hy Vee in Mason City.

The USDA recommends cooking whole meats like steak to at least 145 degrees, grounds meats to 160 and all kinds of chicken to at least 165 degrees.

And when it comes to produce, you should always wash it before consuming, even if it’s in a package.

But the reality is when it comes to preventing disease it’s not just food that needs to be washed.

“One of the number one causes of food borne illness is poor personal hygiene so always make sure you are washing your hands and washing your hands thoroughly,” says Kirchhoff.

If you do think you’ve contracted a food borne illness, officials at public health stress the importance of getting to a physician.

“Diarrhea is not something everybody likes to talk about but it’s a reality of what we do and it certainly is indicative of someone being ill potentially from food that they might have consumed,” adds Hanft.

Another thing to be mindful of is food that’s left out at BBQ’s and other gatherings.

Dietitians suggest having a 2-hour limit on food that is left out.

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