Friday, June 8, 2007

How much bacteria are you eating?

The beautiful warmer weather is upon us and so is the time to be outdoors at picnics and barbecues...good stuff, right? Of course, family bonding, lots of fun throwing that frisbee around, breaking away from our ordinary routine to spend quality time together, but...did you ever stop to think about the bacteria that is growing and growing in this warmer weather, or about the safe handling of raw meat and stuff like that? No, I'm not a hypochondriac, I'm just a concerned Mom wanting to pass on a few tips that I have learned along the way.

My daughter came home from school the other day and shared a few things she learned in science class. One of them is that when you are making soup, chili or a pot of something on the stove and mix it occasionally, then set your spoon down on a plate nearby to pick up again and again, stirring the soup - you are inadvertently putting bacteria along with the love into what you thought was a nourishing home cooked meal for your family. The bacteria continues to grow on the spoon that is left on the counter. Yuck!

Another situation we may not be aware of is that cold deli items, cold cuts, and meats that are in our carriages while we are grocery shopping are subject to growing bacteria because they are not being refrigerated at the proper temperature (even though the store may feel cool with the air conditioning). It's best to shop for the deli items and meats last, right before checking out.

What horrifies me the most is that people may unintentionally poison their children! I know I may sound dramatic, but some people don't realize the dangers of taking cooked food off the grill and putting it on the SAME PLATE they used to carry the uncooked chicken or beef out to the grill on. PLEASE don't do that! Children have died from Ecoli poisoning from that very situation. Utensils that have touched raw meat must be washed thoroughly and not reused to touch other food. Let's not get LAZY at the grill. Dads and husbands (who often "man" the grill) have to learn the proper handling for these foods in these temperatures and take every precaution. You can never be too careful when it comes to raw meats. Also the fact that the burgers or chicken may be out on that plate near the grill for awhile before cooking, introduces bacteria. Keep everything refrigerated properly and don't take it outside until you are ready to put it on the grill. Of course we know that we have to be careful of salads and mayonnaise outdoors, as well.

My daughter had Salmonella poisoning one time from chicken strips she got from Arby's while out with a friend and I will tell you that it is not something that you wouldn't want even your worst enemy to have. It can kill you. I kept vigil at her side, giving her sips of fluids every few minutes to rehydrate her constantly because of the fluids she continued to lose...this goes on for months (the acute stage being within the first couple of weeks). Need I say more? The health inspector investigated and found that at this particular Arby's restaurant the workers were cramming too many chicken strips in the deep fryer and the ones in the middle were not getting thoroughly cooked. Trust me, I do not like fast food, as I said earlier, my daughter went with a friend. These are issues we need to keep in mind. And let's not forget that you can also get Salmonella from raw's time to stop letting the kids eat the raw cookie dough (I'm not talking about cookie dough ice cream). Kitchen counters need to be washed thoroughly and often to kill the bacteria from raw eggs that may have dripped on the counter, from meat, fish, etc.

I hope I haven't turned you off to getting outside and enjoying the times with your loved ones! I'm just concerned for your safety and well-being! :) Have fun while being aware of that invisible trouble that lurks around on raw meats, fish, and other foods.

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