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Protect Yourself from Food Poisoning


The picnic table is packed with delicious summertime favorites. You’re eyeing the deviled eggs and bratwurst. On such a hot summer day, though, you wonder how long the food has been sitting out. Before you pile food onto your plate, remember that foodborne bacteria thrive in summer temperatures and humidity. They can cause illnesses and pose a serious threat to your health. Learn about food poisoning risks so you can make informed decisions and protect yourself and your loved ones this summer. Know your treatment options under TRICARE in case you do get sick.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, contaminated foods and beverages sicken 1 in 6 and kill 3,000 Americans each year. Food poisoning occurs after you swallow food contaminated with germs or toxic substances. These include viruses, bacteria, mold, parasites and poisonous chemicals. The most common germs that cause foodborne illness include salmonella, norovirus and Listeriosis. Depending on the type of germs, symptoms range widely, from a mild upset stomach and abdominal cramping to vomiting, diarrhea, fever and dehydration.

Most foodborne illnesses are preventable. According to the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, you can protect yourself from foodborne illnesses by making sure to:

  • Stay Clean – Wash your hands regularly and food preparation surfaces. Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water.
  • Separate Food – Separate foods as you prepare them. Cross contamination occurs when germs spread from one ingredient, especially meats, to another through a cutting board or plate.
  • Cook thoroughly – Cook meats to the correct temperature on a food thermometer. Temperature guidelines are 145 F for whole meats, 160 F for ground meats and 165 F for poultry. (Learn more by reading grilling safety tips).
  • Chill Quickly – Keep your refrigerator below 40 F Fahrenheit. Return leftovers to the refrigerator quickly, or at a minimum, within two hours. In warm weather, reduce this number to one hour. Meats should marinate in the refrigerator, not on the counter.

You may be at greater risk of food poisoning if you are pregnant, over age 65 or have a weakened immune system. Children younger than age five are also at risk. For all these groups, the effects of food poisoning can be more serious.

Most food poisoning symptoms are minor and resolve without treatment. If symptoms continue or worsen, see your doctor or go to the emergency roomThe hospital department that provides emergency services to patients who need immediate medical attention.. These options are covered under your TRICARE benefit. You can always call the TRICARE Nurse Advice Line (NAL) with urgent care questions at 1-800-TRICARE (1-800-874-2273) and select option 1. The NAL is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Back at the barbeque, you opt for a slice of watermelon, pasta salad and a brownie.

Check out more tips for enjoying a safe and healthy summer from TRICARE.

Last Updated 8/7/2017