Sunday, February 12, 2012

Q & A: Food Poisoning: What to do

Q.            I am trying to figure out what food caused me to have a problem with severe diarrhea. My wife and I ate almost the same foods on Sunday, except I ate some pre-cut cantaloupe cubes and she did not. The next day,  all day long I could not leave my house; I had to stay home to be near the bathroom.
            Is there any way to tell if a food is contaminated?  Or how do I know if there has been a recall on any food items (like the recalls you hear about in the news)? F.G. Hudsonville

A.            The trouble with food poisoning, or food borne illness, is that there is no sure way to tell if a food is tainted, by looks, smell or taste.  There doesn’t need to be much of the offending bacteria present to take hold of your system and wreak havoc.  And those of us with a compromised immune system (young children, pregnant women, older folks, and people with severe illnesses) who generally have difficulty fighting off the easy bugs, get into the most trouble.
There are several ways to report  a suspected food borne illness or food poisoning incidence. First, make an appointment with your physician; they can make a report to the correct agency (usually the local health department), and may ask for lab samples of your blood, stool, and urine.
Or, you could call your local health department yourself and let them know about your suspected incidence of food poisoning. They will ask questions about what food do you suspect, where did you buy it, when did you eat it, how long did it take for symptoms to appear, what are your symptoms, etc. Don’t be surprised if they ask you to remember what you ate 2-3 days prior to when you got sick, because some bacteria take two days or more to grow in your system and then make you sick. Rarely does a food immediately make you sick from food borne illness.

For ways to keep your home food safe, check out this brochure from the USDA. 

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