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Wilburn: Food-related illness has dramatic effects

POSTED: February 25, 2009 1:00 a.m.

Food may cause illness if it has been contaminated with parasites, viruses or bacteria, and all food can be carriers of these microorganisms.

At the right temperature, in just a few hours, even small amounts of bacteria you can't see, smell or taste can multiply to dangerous levels on susceptible foods and cause foodborne illness, sometimes called food poisoning.

Symptoms tend to resemble the flu. If diarrhea continues, this can become a nutritional concern, as diarrhea interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food.

Young children, infants, pregnant women, elderly people and people who are sick are especially susceptible to foodborne illness. So, it is important to take special care when serving food to these groups.

Although any microorganism can find its way into a child care or home setting, five pathogens seem to have particular importance in outbreaks of foodborne illness: Shigella, Cryptosporidium, Giardia lamblia, Hepatitis A and E. coli O157:H7.

Sanitation and safe food practices are some of the most important aspects of good food service. One error or one instance of carelessness can cause the spread of disease with drastic consequences.

Just as it's important to feed children nutritious, body-building foods, it is equally important that your meals and snacks be free from substances that may cause illness.

Nutrition and sanitation must go hand-in-hand in the home or in any food service operation.

Source: Colorado State University Cooperative Extension

Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Contact: 770-535-8290.


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