Foodborne Illness: Dizzying Outbreaks Caused by Germs

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On this Page:

  • Blue Bell listeria outbreak signals larger issue
  • Food poisoning: Learn more from McMinn Law Firm
  • Foods that cause illness
  • How to safely prepare food
  • How to tell when meat is fully cooked

AUSTIN, TX – 9/21/2016

Blue Bell Ice Cream has recalled Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough half gallons. According to reports, the supplier of the cookie dough, Aspen Hills Inc., says there are “concerns” that listeria could be present. No illnesses were been reported before the recall.

Read more about the latest outbreak.

Blue Bell Ice Cream’s operations halted in 2015 amid a very serious listeria scare. A Houston man, David Shockley, settled a suit out of court. FDA officials noted that Blue Bell Ice Cream had probably been making people sick since 2010. During that time, 10 people became seriously ill. Three of those victims died. Because Blue Bell settled out of court for damages caused by listeria, we don’t know the result of the settlements. That’s the case for many food-borne illnesses.

You pick up dinner from the supermarket, or grab a burger in the drive through on the way home. A busy lifestyle calls for food that’s ready-to-eat. What it doesn’t call for? Sickness. Eating out or sharing dinner with a friend shouldn’t make you sick.

Read on to see how you can prevent food borne illness and why some companies have had outbreaks that caused sickness.

Companies must be held accountable when their actions put the safety of the community at risk. At McMinn Law Firm we fight for the recovery of the little guy. Big corporations should not take risks that jeopardize the health and safety of consumers.

If you or someone you know has been injured by eating a contaminated food, you may know how important litigation is for recovery from severe illness.

How to Avoid Food Poisoning Injury

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Buying a frozen turkey means defrosting a frozen turkey. Make sure you know how long it will take!

If you want to prevent foodborne illness in your family, there are a few suggestions you may want to consider. But be warned you may be saying goodbye to some of your favorite treats.
High risk foods include:

  • Ground beef or turkey Ground meats can put consumers at risk because of the numbers of animals a person can be exposed to. It is estimated that on average, a McDonald’s burger includes meat from more than 100 different cows. Now imagine if one of those cows is sick.
  • Bagged salad If a bagged salad is the only way you get your leafy greens, you may want to reconsider. Experts say the pre-prepared item exposes consumers to health risks because lettuce is mixed up during the cutting and washing process. What could have been an isolated hazard may contaminate all of the lettuce.
  • Raw oysters Health officials say the oysters may be contaminated by Vibrio vulnifuicus, a bacteria found in ocean during during warmer months.
  • Unpasteurized juice or milk: Leaving the products such as cider, orange juice and lemonade unpasteurized can invite bacteria and pathogens such as E. coli, salmonella, and norovirus.
  • Sprouts You may have noticed that Sprouts have been pulled from HEB shelves in the past year, that has everything to do with foodborne contaminations. There have been 50 sprout outbreaks. Some of them are considered the most deadly. Why? Seeds are difficult for farmers to decontaminate.

Prepare to Cook

  • Do not attempt to cut through frozen meat. Making a cut through meat that has not been fully thawed could result in a trip to the emergency room. There is a chance the knife could slip off of the meat and cut the hand holding the meat.
  • Wear clothing that is simple, and does not have excess material that could get caught in an oven, refrigerator door, or over an open flame. Avoid loose, frilly sleeves. If there are ties on the clothing, ensure they are securely tied to avoid dipping them in the food.

Wash Produce to Enjoy Fruits and Vegetables

  • Before and after handling or preparing fruits and vegetables, wash hands with soap and warm water.
  • Keep cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops safe by washing with soap and hot water between the preparation of raw meat, poultry, and seafood products and the preparation of fruits and vegetables that will not be cooked.
  • You may love your local grocer – and there are plenty of reasons to love many of the farm to table products that today’s consumer has access to. But while less processed foods can be tastier and more nutritious don’t forget that they come with risks as well. Organic products don’t come with the fertilizers, that means it’s a bigger challenge for farmers to prevent contamination.

Prepare with Care: Prevent Foodborne Illness

  • Remove damaged or bruised areas on fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating
  • Scrub firm fruits and vegetables (such as melons and cucumbers).
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables before cutting, eating or cooking.
  • There is no need to rewash produce that is labeled “prewashed.”

How to Store and Save Fruits and Vegetables

  • After cutting, peeling or cooking fruits and vegetables, refrigerate as soon as possible or within two hours.
  • Keep fruits and vegetables away from raw meat, poultry, and seafood.

How to Properly Defrost or Thaw Meat:

You’re hungry after a long day of work. And you don’t want to go to the store, so you poke around in the freezer to find some frozen chicken breasts. Seems like a perfectly healthy, easy dinner. But failing to defrost your food in a responsible manner could result in sickness. Never fear – because these are the three safest (and best!) ways to defrost food:

    1. Refrigerator thawing: This is definitely the easiest method to defrost food. Simply just move it from the freezer to your refrigerator. (But keep it away from ready-to-eat foods that won’t be cooked.) Only downside? It may take way longer than you thought. For large items such as a large turkey or ham, it could take multiple days to defrost. Tip: it will take about 24 hours for every 5 pounds of food. Poultry, fish and ground meat that has been defrosted in the refrigerator will keep for an additional 1 or 2 days in the refrigerator before you cook it. Beef, pork, lamb or veal, will keep for an additional 3 to 5 days after it thaws.
    2. Cold Water Thawing: Upside? This method is much faster than thawing in the refrigerator. Downside: it takes much more of your attention to thaw meat properly in a bath of cold water. First, place meat into a sealable zip-lock bag. Next, fill sink or large bowl with cold tap water. Submerge the frozen meat into the bath of cold water. Never use hot water, as the heat from the water will unevenly thaw the meat and could change the outer layer of the meat. Change the water every 30 minutes. Allow about one hour to defrost small (about one pound) bags of food. One pound of food will defrost in about 30 minutes using the cold water thawing method. Use food immediately.
    3. Microwave Thawing Thawing using the microwave is the fastest (safe) method. To thaw the food in the microwave, set the device to the “defrost” setting or at “50 percent power.” This is an important step in the process because if the food is heated at a high temperature the food will not defrost evenly and the outside of the food will likely be cooked while the inside remains frozen.

Why Other Methods Are a Big Accident

It is tempting to speed up one of these processes by not following the guidebook. It’d be faster to place the meat in warm water, or easier to leave it out on the counter to thaw. But when you disregard the food safety recommendations there’s a lot that could go wrong with the shortcut.
The problem with both of those shortcuts is that your raw meat could sit between 40°F and 140 °F (the bacteria-breeding temperatures) for too long.

Cooking temperatures

Foodsafety.gov offers advice on what temperature to cook food to until it is safe to eat. Looking at meat isn’t necessarily a good indication of whether or not it is fully cooked. Think about pork – oftentimes when it is fully cooked and has reached a safe internal temperature, it is still pink. Allowing food to rest can also help it reach its internal temperature.

Foods that require no rest time:

  • Ground Beef, Pork or lamb: cook to 160.
  • Poultry including chicken and turkey, as a whole bird or as chicken breast. Cook to 165.
  • Eggs and egg dishes For whole eggs, cook until yolk and white are firm. For egg dishes, the minimum internal temperature is 160.
  • Fish: Most fish can be cooked until it is pearly and opaque. For more tips, visit foodsafety.gov.

Foods that do require rest time:

  • Steaks, roasts and chops Cook until internal temperature has reached 145. Let rest for 3 minutes.
  • Fresh pork or ham Cook until internal temperature has reached 145. Let rest for three minutes.