An alarming number of Iowans have suffered from food-borne illnesses this summer. In some cases, the number of cases of illnesses such as E. coli more than doubled from the same period the last few years. In 2004, there have been 47 cases reported of E. coli, compared to an average of 26 cases per year from 2001 to 2003.
E. coli causes bad diarrhea and can occasionally cause kidney failure and other life-threatening complications. Several children have had these serious complications this summer in Iowa.
Another illness showing a spike is salmonella, which was reported 233 times so far this year. From 2001 to 2003, there was an average of 171 cases reported per year.
Health officials say there 271 cases of campylobacter have been reported in 2004, compared to an average of 207 per year over the previous three years.
These diseases are caused when basic food handling rules regarding cleanliness, cooking and food temperatures are not followed. E. coli can occur when meat is not completely cooked, especially ground meat.
“Cook all ground or chopped meat patties and poultry until the center is at 160 degrees. If you do not have a meat thermometer, cook until the center is gray or brown and all juices running from the meat are clear, with no trace of pink or cloudiness,” Iowa state epidemiologist Dr. Patricia Quinlisk said.
Other ways to avoid food illnesses include:
Thaw meat in the refrigerator, not on the kitchen counter.
Use different plates for raw and cooked meat. Do not place cooked meat on a plate with raw meat juices.
Wash hands, utensils and cutting boards in hot soapy water after contact with raw meat before using again.
Wash hands after going to the bathroom, diapering an infant and before preparing food.
Keep hot foods hot — like cooked meats — and cold foods cold, which includes salads and lunchmeat.