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Parental paranoia; a term I was not aware of until I actually became a parent 5 years ago. Before that, we had been “go with the flow” people with no children and few worries. If we got sick, we slept it off and continued on with young adult life. After adding our son into the mix, everything seemed to harbor germs, and I became a lot more aware of the dangers that could have been lingering right in our home. I also realized very quickly that if Mama or Daddy were sick, we still had another person to take care of. There was no longer such thing as “just sleeping it off.” We became very concerned for germs and bacteria, such as Salmonella and wanted to learn how to ward it off and keep this illness out of our home.
Small Changes = Prevention from Sickness
Recently, we have seen recalls on foods that we consume almost daily. Fresh fruits, cereal, eggs and more. But where does Salmonella come from and what can we do to keep it away from our family? First things first: we stopped eating raw cookie dough. At first this seemed like a real punishment, but after knowing what could potentially happen, the temptation went away rather quickly.
Another temptation was undercooked eggs. Yes, southern folks often eat eggs over easy or sunny side up, but that trend needed to end. Seriously though, eggs should be stored at no more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and while we use eggs from our own backyard chickens, if you are buying them in a store, try to buy the ones that are the cleanest and ones that show no cracks. Pasteurized eggs are also a great idea. Also, proper cooking kills Salmonella. So, make sure to sook those eggs to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
Do you have pets in your home? Simple basic hand washing, especially after handling turtles, snakes, chickens, and lizards is a must. We use the hottest water that we can stand on our skin and soap. Singing “Happy Birthday” twice is the proper amount of time for washing. Another key is that, if you know that your child has a weakened immune system, then these types of pets may not be the best for your home.
We cook our meats to the advised temperatures and handle uncooked meat with care. Lots of hand washing comes in to play, yet again. As the one in our home who prepares most of the meals, I am highly careful to not let either of our boys handle any uncooked meat at all. They are welcomed into the kitchen with open arms to help cook, but meats are off limits until they are older, and I can ensure that they know how to wash their hands in the proper manner.
Avoiding unpasteurized milk and juices which seems pretty simple because these days most everything is pasteurized. But at local markets, often people make things or bring from their own backyard farms, and they have not followed those precautions. Always ask questions, I know I do. Usually the local farmer will be happy to answer and know that you do not have to make the purchase if you feel that something is unsafe for your family.
Caution with leftovers is a big deal here, too. We try to package them in airtight containers as soon as they are cool enough, but the general rule of thumb is that leftovers should not be left out for more than 2 hours after serving or 1 hour if it is really warm outside. Keep your fridge set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less. With newer models this is a lot easier than in the olden days where you had a knob because now you can literally tune your fridge to the degree with the electronic panel on the front. Personally, we keep ours at 38 degrees, and we do not change it.
The Spread of Salmonella
People often ask if Salmonella is contagious, and the answer is yes! Salmonella can be spread by direct or indirect contact. Direct means from saliva, feces or kissing and indirect is by using a contaminated utensil or other product that has touched something that has been infected. Knowing this means that if you suspect Salmonella is in your home first and foremost get medical attention for those you believe have been infected. We use a lot of Lysol spray and wipes in our home because they are bleach-free ,but still kill germs and bacteria. The wipes are great because they are disposable and do not leave contaminated towels laying around – since so many people use cleaning rags. The Lysol spray is great for spraying door knobs, telephones, tablets, and the treasured television remote because these are things that most members in the household handle and could become contaminated if sickness is prevalent in your home.
When Mom gets sick we often wonder who is going to prepare the meals, do the laundry, and take care of things. But if you suspect as a caretaker that you have Salmonella, you must stop preparing foods for your family, especially if you have been vomiting or have diarrhea. You could unintentionally be spreading the illness to your entire family without even meaning to.
More Questions? We have Answers.
If you still have questions about food safety often there are classes that can teach you and even certify you in food safety for proper cooking and handling. This class is great not only for adults but for teenagers as well. It is never too early to start teaching proper food handling and cooking tactics to keep your family and friends safe and healthy. This blog is also a great resource for all things bacterial, viral, parasitic, and of a food safety nature. We invite you to continue to peruse our posts.
We feel as parents that it is better to be safe than sorry when handling foods and preparing them, especially in the summer months. We practice this idea daily and try to be as safe with our foods as possible especially when having special summer outings with our boys or eating at cookouts. If something doesn’t look right then pass on eating it or serving to your children.
For more information on food safety and the recent increases in Salmonella outbreaks be sure to read MakeFoodSafe daily as there are updates on the outbreaks, how to prevent them in your home and important information on the latest recalls to keep your family safe and healthy. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
By: Samantha Cooper, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)