Food poisoning is a risk we take every day when we bite into our food. This may seem a harsh reality but the way our food is handled, cooked or prepared can determine the outcome of our health and well-being.
Certain foods are high risk when it comes to foodborne illnesses.
It is not uncommon to hear that farmers used to stick a ladle in the milk tank and take a sip.
Marshfield Clinic Primary Care Physician Dr. Brady Didion grew up working on dairy farms. He said that despite this tradition, it’s not something you should do.
“Without milk going through a heating and bacteria-killing process, people who drink it are really at the mercy of whatever is in there, either coming from the cows or machinery,” said Didion.
Other raw foods also can be at risk for food poisoning. Raw sprouts, meat, eggs and shellfish may contain bacteria that can lead to food poisoning. Bacteria can enter foods like these through the ground, come from industrial equipment used to process them, or bacteria like salmonella and E. coli can live inside raw contaminated foods.
As more people turn to raw foodism, meaning they follow a raw food diet because they believe cooking food removes its nutrients, the risk for foodborne illness increases.
Bacterial infections can be very contagious, Didion said.
“Kids, elderly and immune-deficit people won’t be able to withstand these infections,” he said. “I don’t recommend necessarily that everyone has to have a burnt-to-crisp steak, but the better done it is the lower your risk. None of this is extremely common, but it happens enough and there are enough bad outcomes that we have to be careful.”
Know where your food comes from
Pre-cut and pre-washed fruits and vegetables are another risk for foodborne illness.
When fruits and veggies are prepared in a factory or industrial setting and placed in bags and crates, and shipped across the country to local grocery stores, bacteria is able to live and flourish with the moisture and cool temperatures. In outbreaks like E. coli, Didion said the bacteria are often traced back to a warehouse or factory.
The way people can avoid a lot of this is to know where your food comes from,” he said. “Buy from farmer’s markets or go directly to a farmer.”
Didion said purchasing from a farmer provides more knowledge about the animal husbandry, or where the fruits and vegetables are grown to ensure the food is safe.
“A lot of farmers will give details on what they are feeding their animals, and even some farmers will let you go out and see where the animals live,” he said.
Is paying more worth it?
Locally-grown produce and meat can be more expensive, but Didion said there are a lot of downsides to industrial farming.
“We are just offered more processed products,” he said. “It might cost a little more, but maybe that will make us eat less and enjoy it more. Maybe, it will make us a better, safer community from a health standpoint.”
Didion recommends learning more about the local farms in your area.
“Knowing what’s around you is important,” he said.
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