Martijn van Mensvoort -  Hand Research

MAY 5, 2008

Hand-washing prevent food-borne illnesses
Food-borne illnesses kill about 5,000 people each year.

Author: Krystle Richard

Hand News from: KANSAS, USA

Food-borne illnesses kill about 5,000 people each year, according to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention's Web site. Communication specialist for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Mike Heideman, said hand sanity is a good way to avoid some of the risks of getting sick.

"Washing with soap and warm water before and after eating or handling food or using the toilet can prevent cross contamination," Heideman said.

He said people should be sure to wash for at least 20 seconds being sure to clean under fingernails and all surfaces of the hands.

However, a task so simple is commonly taken for granted said Joye Gordon, associate professor of journalism, who has done research on how to communicate physical hazards. She said most people are unaware of the health risks some situations pose. "Things people don't fear is what usually kills them," she said. "[Washing is] so important to us, culturally and socially."
Food hazards

Gordon said avoiding food-safety hazards is nearly impossible because every person interacts with food on a daily basis.

Andrew Reece, graduate student in food science, said the dangers associated with food contamination can range from cramps to bloody stool to vomiting or even death. Prevention of cross contamination is important with food storage, Reece said.

Keep meats separate from fruits and vegetables," he said. "Sometimes people keep vegetables in the crispers and the juice from the meat will drip down on to the vegetables."

Proper food storage can also help keep food-borne bacteria from spreading. Reece said meats should be kept frozen, and if they are left sitting thawed for more than two days, they should be thrown out. Dairy products and fruits and vegetables should be kept no more than a week, he said. He also said people should pay more attention to food-storage guidelines and expiration dates.

"Expiration dates on most products usually refer to quality guidelines," Reece said. "It's not that the product isn't still good after the date, but it may not be at its best quality."
Reece said some bacteria are more common in certain foods than others.

"Ground beef has common strains of E.coli 015H7," he said. In chicken, Salmonellosis is most common, though it is not limited to just chicken."

Salmonellosis is an infection with a bacteria called Salmonella, according to the CDC Web site. A person infected with Salmonellosis could have diarrhea for up to a week. According to the site, the bacteria is passed from feces of people or animals to other people or animals. Proper refrigeration is also important in preventing the spread of some bacteria. Gordon said a common cause of the problem locally is that students' refrigerators are not kept cold enough. "They should keep the temperature 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below," she said. "Some pathogens thrive in cold temperatures," she said. Food hazards

Reece said students should also pay attention to packaging labels. He said using a microwave oven to cook food is not a proper substitute for a standard oven if that's what a package calls for.

"Sometimes packaging can be really vague, and the food may seem fully cooked, but isn't," he said. Additionally, students can visit and for more information about food safety. While there are many food-safety tips out there that can help in preventing food-borne illnesses, Gordon said washing your hands is the most important step people can take to protect their health.

"Wash, clean, separate and cook," she said. "It's hard to chase down a food-borne breakout - so many come and go."

Source: Kansas Collegian Online



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