Health Report: Increased Foodborne Illnesses in Community Last Summer

Health Report: Increased Foodborne Illnesses in Community Last Summer

Posted on July 24, 2019

Montgomery Twp. – Summer-time activities can increase the risk of foodborne illness according to a new report from the Montgomery Township Health Department (MTHD). The Health Department reviewed local foodborne illness data from 2018 and found that travel, and barbeque picnics were common contributors to cases. Foodborne illnesses like E. coli, Salmonella, Giardiasis, Cyclospora and Campylobacter pose serious health risks and may take several weeks to treat. Spoiled food can make a person sick any day of the year, but warm weather and summer barbeque picnics make the problem more common. According to Stephanie Carey, Montgomery Township Health Officer, “we are seeing a rising number of food-related illnesses for a few reasons – bacteria grow rapidly in warm and humid settings, and preparing food and eating outdoors makes it harder to follow simple safety rules”.

The MTHD analysis showed a strong seasonal pattern, with two distinct peaks. The first peak is seen in July and August mainly due to summer travel (e.g. to locations that may have inadequate access to safe drinking water) and barbeques (e.g. where poultry grilling may not reach safe temperatures to kill bacteria). The second peak occurs in November where many of the cases were associated with consuming under-cooked holiday turkeys.

 

Figure 1. The epidemic curve of reported Campylobacter cases in Montgomery Township, Rocky Hill Borough, Pennington Borough, and Hopewell Borough in 2018.

“When we see increased incidences of foodborne illnesses, we investigate each case separately, looking for trends that may link two or more cases together.  However, we often find that summer is the peak season for foodborne-related illnesses due to vacations, travel, and grilling or eating outdoors,” says Brianna Retsis, the Township’s Public Health Nurse.  “Health Education is key to preventing the spread of these illnesses that are mostly spread by poor handwashing. Simple measures, such as proper handwashing, and keeping hots foods hot and cold foods cold, can prevent foodborne illness.

Symptoms of Foodborne Illness include:

  •   Abdominal Cramps
  •   Weight Loss
  •   Nausea/Vomiting
  •   Weakness/Fatigue
  •   Severe (often bloody) Diarrhea
  •   Loss of Appetite
  •   Fever
  •   Headache

The Health Department encourages four simple food safety tips:

  1. Wash hands and surfaces often. Unwashed hands are a prime cause of foodborne illness.  Always wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after handling food.
  2. Don’t cross-contaminate. Separate raw meats and uncooked food from ready-to-eat food.
  3. Cook to proper temperatures. Cooking at high enough temperatures will kill harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness.
  4. Refrigerate promptly or within 2 hours. Food left out of refrigeration for more than 2 hours may not be safe to eat.

Travel tips include:

Safe food and beverages while traveling: Food and Beverages to Avoid while Traveling
  •   Hot coffee, tea and soup (if served steaming)
  • Any food served steaming
  • Bottled/canned noncarbonated water, soft drinks, or mineral water
  • Pre-packaged snacks (e.g. chips, pretzels, cookies, etc.)
  • Dry bread

 

  • Tap water and ice
  • Fresh salads and leafy green vegetables
  • Fresh cheese
  • Cold meats & foods, including previously boiled seafood
  • Sauces in open containers on tables
  • Milk and other dairy products from questionable sources
  • Any food from a street vendor that you have not seen boiling for at least 5 minutes
  • Fruit that has been peeled by someone else

For more information:

USDA: www.FoodSafety.gov

Fight BAC: www.fightbac.org/summer-1/

For questions or more information, please contact the Montgomery Township Health Department at (908) 359-8211