Food Safety and Food Poisoning Information

Salmonella, a common cause of food poisoning Food that sits at room temperature for longer than usual, such as during the holidays, can provide opportunities for bacteria to grow.  Food poisoning is the common term used to describe an illness that occurs after eating or drinking spoiled food or beverage.  The illness is usually caused by a virus or bacteria that contaminated the food during food preparation. 

Salmonella is a bacteria that causes food poisoning.  Salmonella can remain alive after butchering and can grow at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.  That means the bacteria may be active during thawing, storage or inadequate cooking.

If the food or drink is responsible for your symptoms, everyone who ate or drank the same food will also be affected.   Common symptoms of food poisoning are nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea. Fever and chills may or may not be present.  Symptoms usually develop suddenly and within 48 hours of eating.  In most cases, food poisoning is not serious and the symptoms will go away on their own in 24-48 hours.

Treating food poisoning mainly involves drinking fluids to replace the ones being lost due to vomiting and diarrhea.  Medicines that stop vomiting or diarrhea are usually not recommended because these functions are the way the body gets rid of the virus or bacteria.  Contact your physician if the symptoms do not go away within 48 hours, if the person cannot keep any liquids down or if the person cannot take their normal medicines because of vomiting. Young children and seniors should be observed more closely.

Food Poisoning Prevention Tips

General

  • Wash hands thoroughly with warm water and soap before and after food preparation
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  • Do not leave food out for more than 2 hours after finishing a meal.
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  • Use ice if you pack lunches with meat and other perishable items.
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  • Cook all meats to the recommended temperatures.
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  • Wash utensils, cutting boards and contact surfaces thoroughly after food preparation.

Holiday

  • Thaw frozen, unstuffed turkeys in the refrigerator for 1-5 days, depending on the size of the bird.
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  • For faster thawing, turkeys can be put in watertight wrappers and submerged in cold water for 4 to 12 hours depending on the size of the bird.  Add ice regularly to deep the water cold.
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  • Do not thaw the turkey on the kitchen counter.
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  • All work surfaces and utensils should be washed promptly after use.  Hands, utensils, and work surfaces that touch raw poultry are likely to pick up bacteria.   To avoid spreading bacteria to other foods, wash hands thoroughly before and after dressing the turkey.
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  • It is important to ensure complete cooking with a meat thermometer by pushing the point of the thermometer into the thickest part of the meet (usually the drumstick) without touching the bone. At 325 degrees, the turkey should be cooked until the thermometer registers between 180 and 185 degrees.
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  • Stuffing temperature should reach at least 165 degrees.
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  • Call the New Mexico Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 for poisoning emergencies, questions about poisons or for poison prevention tips, 24-hours a day, 7-days a week.

Food Safety During a Power Outage

Power outages can occur anytime.  How do you know if your refrigerated and frozen food is safe to eat when the power comes back on?  Follow these guidelines:

  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.
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  • The refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if unopened.
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  • A full freezer will hold the temperature for 48 hours (24 hours if half full) if the door remains closed.
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  • For prolonged power outages, store refrigerated items in a cooler with ice.
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  • When power comes back on, frozen food that still has ice crystals or that  is at 40°F or below is safe to refreeze or cook.
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  • Discard any meat, poultry, fish, eggs or leftovers that have been above 40°F for 2 hours or more.
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  • Always remember: when in doubt, throw it out!

Additional Resources

  • Visit the Fight Bac! Web site to learn more about how to protect infants and toddlers from food - bourne illness.  Fact sheets and other resources are available for parents, caregivers and trainers.
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