THE HEART OF THE MATTER
a special program of the National Emergency Medicine Association (NEMA) 

Week: 528.3 Guest: Bessie Berry, United States Department of Agriculture Topic: Food Poisoning Prevention - One Part Host: Steve Girard Producer: Ed Graham

NEMA: A doctor told me there are no 24 hour virus caused flus...he said people don't realize how often they may be encountering food poisoning. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Bessie Berry is with us, she's acting head of the meat and poultry hotline...

BERRY: There are three causes, main causes for food poisoning incidents during the summer months. The cross contamination is a result of adding the cooked product to the same surface that the raw product was on. For example, taking burgers or chicken to the grill on a plate, and then putting that plate aside and putting the cooked product back on that same plate or tray. This is something you want to avoid. And the second is undercooking a product...you place the food on a hot grill, the coals are very, very hot...and they immediately sear the exterior of the product, leading you to believe that the food is thoroughly cooked, when it may not be- put it back on and leave it on the grill and cook it thoroughly. And., then the third...leaving foods out too long. You've cooked this food, you've enjoyed it, but the fact that the weather is very, very warm during the summer months, it does not mean that these foods are safe from being reintroduced to new bacteria that will multiply rapidly on these prepared foods. Therefore, you do not want to leave them out for over an hour during the warm months.

NEMA: What kinds of bacteria are we dealing with when we talk about food poisoning?

BERRY: There are a wide range of food poisoning bacteria that cause you to become ill. You can't identify them by any appearance or smell or any of those things, you just know that they are present. Many of them are fairly familiar to people....salmonella, for one...camphilobacter....listeria...then E coli 015787, the most recent one. But there are a wide range of these organisms, and they are most often associated with meat, poultry, fish and egg products. These are the very perishable foods, so special care must be taken when handling these foods.

NEMA: How about some general tips for handling and preparing our foods....

BERRY: You want to make sure you prepare them thoroughly, and that you refrigerate them...if when you're preparing foods in your back yard, its certainly easier to take them right from the refrigerator and put them on the grill, prepare them and eat them. But if you're going on a picnic site, the best way to take foods, there, the most convenient way is to take foods that are cold...its easier to transport cold foods. So, if you're preparing a potato salad, certainly you would have prepared it that day or the day before, and refrigerated it in shallow containers. If you're taking foods that are not going to be grilled, but are going to be eaten as cooked foods, for example, fried chicken, and some of these other meats that you would prepare ahead of time, cook them, cool them down thoroughly, take them in the ice chest to your picnic site.

NEMA: The USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline, and Bessie Berry can be reached at 1-800-535-4555. I'm SG.