Preventing food poisoning at your big game party shouldn’t be a Hail Mary

Food poisoning affects about 48 million Americans every year. Throw a party that keeps guests healthy and happy, win or lose, on football’s biggest day.

With football’s biggest day just around the corner, Erin Wiedmer, clinical nutritionist with Norton Healthcare’s employee wellness program, shares important information to help you stay healthy and keep your guests healthy. You may have never worried about safe food handling, but consider Erin’s advice.

“Preventing food poisoning is one of those things you don’t care about until you have it,” Erin said. “It’s more common than you think — about 48 million people in the U.S. get sick from foodborne illnesses each year. Would you rather your party be a touchdown with your guests or a fumble people remember for the food poisoning?”

Erin is ServSafe manager certified in food safety.

Q: What are the most common causes of foodborne illnesses?

A: Foodborne illness is caused by consuming contaminated foods or beverages. Foods can become contaminated due to improper handling, leaving food out too long or not keeping food at a safe temperature. These issues can be a major concern for gatherings such as a party where many people share food over an extended period of time.

Q: What are the risks of food poisoning? Are there any long-term effects?

A: Food poisoning can be life-threatening, especially for vulnerable people such as pregnant women, those who are immunocompromised and the elderly.

Q: What are common symptoms of food poisoning?

A: Common symptoms of food poisoning include diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, nausea, fever, aches and fatigue.

Q: When should people seek care for food poisoning?

A: Seek medical attention if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Frequent episodes of vomiting and inability to keep liquids down
  • Blood in vomit or stool
  • Symptoms lasting more than three days
  • Extreme pain
  • Temperature higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Signs of dehydration
  • Neurological symptoms such as blurry vision or tingling sensations

Q: How are foodborne illnesses treated?

A: Most food poisoning will go away on its own, but in some severe cases, you may need to see your health care provider if you become dehydrated or need antibiotics.

Q: How can people prevent foodborne illness?

A: The following actions can help prevent foodborne illnesses:

  • Wash your hands, utensils and food surfaces often with soap.
  • Keep raw foods separate from ready-to-eat foods.
  • Cook foods to safe temperatures.
  • Refrigerate perishable foods within two hours of purchasing or preparing them.
  • Don’t let food sit out at room temperature for longer than two hours.
  • When in doubt, throw it out.

Q: Do you have any tips for traditional game day foods, such as wings, chips and dips, or pizza?

Here are some tips to keep your party safe:

Care when you need it

If you’re experiencing symptoms of food poisoning, choose the care option that’s right for you.

Norton Now

  • The maximum time for leaving prepared foods at room temperature is two hours — this includes food prep, serving and eating.
  • If you buy food hot, keep it hot, and make sure to include travel time in your two-hour window. If you’re not serving the food immediately, keep it warm in the oven until you’re ready to serve.
  • You can extend the amount of time food can be kept out if you use additional methods to keep hot food hot (140 to 165 degrees F) and cold food cold (40 degrees F or below).
    • Chafing dishes, slow cookers and warming trays can keep food hot.
    • Setting dishes of cold food in bowls of ice can help keep food cold.
  • Use separate serving spoons for all dishes.
  • Serve chips in one area and dips in another area to avoid “double dipping.”

Q: Are there other illnesses often confused for food poisoning or vice versa? How do we tell the difference?

A: The flu can be mistaken for food poisoning and vice versa. We recommend that you visit your health care provider for a flu test so you can be sure.

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