Food Safety

Do you know how safe the food you’re eating is? It may not be as harmless as you think.

Salmonella is bacteria found in raw foods, raw eggs, undercooked meats and poultry, and even on fruits and vegetables, and can survive for months in water, ice, sewage and frozen meats. It is transmitted when you eat food that has been contaminated with animal feces. Bacteria from the contaminated foods can also be transferred to and from utensils, cutting boards and other kitchen surfaces. Typically, people with a salmonella infection develop symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pains and diarrhea within 12 to 72 hours.

The best way to avoid a salmonella infection is to wash foods thoroughly before eating and wash your hands frequently. If you suspect you’ve eaten contaminated food, seek medical attention.

Symptoms of Salmonella Poisoning:
• Nausea
• Vomiting
• Diarrhea
• Abdominal pain
• Fever
• Chills
• Headache
• Aches
• Fatigue

Egg Recall Update
The latest salmonella outbreak stemmed from several farms in Iowa. Investigators determined that contaminated chicken feed, maggots, rodent droppings and seeping manure all contributed to the outbreak. More than 500,000,000 eggs were recalled.

Legislation is being debated as to whether farmers should be required to vaccinate their hens against salmonella. Despite the scare, pasteurized or thoroughly cooked eggs are considered safe to eat.

Get the latest list of egg recall products

Food Poisoning
Food poisoning is a gastrointestinal disorder that results from eating contaminated foods. Signs of food poisoning may begin within hours and last from one to 10 days. E.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork explains that food poisoning can be caused by foods such as undercooked meats, raw eggs and spinach. The most common cause of food poisoning and gastroenteritis, also known as the stomach flu, are viruses and bacteria.

Although food poisoning will usually run its course in 24 to 48 hours, Dr. Travis emphasizes the importance of constant hydration. He explains that diarrhea and vomiting can dehydrate the body very quickly, and patients often need an intravenous (IV) drip at the nearest emergency room. “After an hour or two of IV fluids, people feel much better,” Dr. Travis says.

• Fever
• Diarrhea
• Vomiting

• Hydration, often with an intravenous (IV) drip
• Avoid anti-diarrheal agents, as diarrhea is one of the ways that the body tries to rid itself of the infection.

• Food poisoning can be life-threatening if caused by botulism or E. Coli bacteria.
• If you develop bloody diarrhea, see your doctor immediately, as it is not a typical symptom of food poisoning.

Mercury Poisoning Eating certain fish on a regular basis can elevate mercury levels in your blood and cause mercury poisoning. Symptoms of mercury poisoning include burning and itching of the body, an irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure, as well as eating food at a faster pace than normal. See if eating sushi on a daily basis is dangerous.

 Toxic mercury levels can also cause birth defects, so women must check their levels before conceiving. During pregnancy, women are advised to not eat sushi and to limit their servings of seafood to one per week.

 Mercury accumulates in muscle and higher levels are often found in leaner selections of fish.
Fish containing high mercury levels Cilantro is a highly effective and natural solution to ridding your body of metals. Cilantro Tea • Finely chop cilantro into 8 tsps • Steep in one quart of boiling water covered for 20 minutes • Once cooled to a comfortable temperature, sip this tea throughout the day for two to three months to gradually rid your body of mercury

Cross Contamination
Approximately 76 million Americans get sick from foodborne illnesses annually, and cross contamination is often to blame. Cross contamination can occur by using a knife or cutting board to cut raw meats, and then using the same kitchenware to cut fruits and vegetables.

Food Dyes and Kids
Many parents have stories about their child becoming hyperactive after eating a package of jelly beans or a neon-blue frosted cupcake at school. And while sugar is the usual suspect, it may not be the cause. New research in Europe suggests that artificial colors may have a bigger effect on children’s behavior than sugar.

“I actually really see a link,” pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears says. “There are some kids [who] are just sensitive to it for some reason, and luckily those parents, when they figure that out, whether the kids are having an activity problem, or attention problem or even a behavior like an autistic problem, sometimes if the parents eliminate food dyes from the diet, the child greatly improves. So we know, for those groups of kids, there is certainly a link.

“Pretty much all my kids in my practice, if they are asking me how to eat [healthily], I tell them to look at these ingredients,’” Dr. Sears continues. “I tell them to look for the high-fructose corn syrup and the hydrogenated [fats], but I also tell them to stay away from colors and numbers. Just look at the ingredients.”

More healthy eating tips for kids

Botulism Dangers in Food
Cloves of garlic soaked in olive oil may taste delicious, but when improperly stored or kept at room temperature, can be deadly. Garlic, due to its low-acidity, can trigger the growth of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which can cause botulism, a serious paralytic ailment.

Restaurants adhere to strict guidelines that mandate the use of citric or phosphoric acid to increase the pH balance of garlic, making their olive oil infused with garlic safe to consume.

Due to their under-developed systems, children are at a higher risk of botulism than adults.

"Babies under the age of 1 are even more susceptible to botulism because they don't have the stomach acid to help fight that off, pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears says. "Raw honey is a big source of botulism."

See how botulism affects the body.

Botulism Symptoms:
• Double or blurred vision
• Drooping eyelids
• Slurred speech
• Difficulty swallowing
• Muscle weakness

Brown Rice and Diabetes
Studies show a direct connection between the type of rice you eat and your risk of developing diabetes. By swapping your white rice for brown, you will be less likely to develop the disease. Get great brown rice recipes!

More on diabetes.

Barbecue Safety 101 Like it or not, barbecues and bacteria go hand in hand. Foods left out for just a few hours teem with bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella, which thrive in temperatures above 90 degrees. You can still enjoy your picnic and avoid food-borne illnesses. Just follow a few simple steps:

• Wash your hands before and after you handle food. (Use hand wipes if you don’t have access to a sink and faucet.)
• Seal meat in a plastic bag so the juices don’t leak onto other food in a container.
• Use a meat thermometer, inserted into the center of your meat, to make sure it’s cooked all the way through. Grill safely this summer by being aware of hidden barbecue dangers.

Safety starts even before getting to the grill out. Be sure to transport food and drinks properly:

• Keep meat and beverages in separate coolers, as the beverage cooler will be constantly open and closed, allowing heat to enter.
• The meat cooler must be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit, as bacteria can start growing in temperatures above that.
• Keep the cooler in your car, not the hot trunk.
• Don't pre-cook meat before transporting it to decrease the risk of bacterial growth.

Don't Char MeatsGrilling meats at a high heat can cause carcinogenic chemicals known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs) to develop. Studies have shown that people who eat well-done or charred beef are three-times more likely to develop cancer than those who eat it rare or medium-rare. But, OB/GYN Dr. Lisa Masterson warns that pregnant women should never eat meats that are rare or medium rare, and they must make sure the meat they eat is cooked all the way through.

Dr. Travis adds that studies show that marinating meats before grilling them can reduce toxic compounds by 90 percent.

Must-Know Cooking Times Most people don't use a thermometer every time they cook their meat, so how do you know when it's reached the proper cooking temperature and is safe to eat? Chef Devin Alexander confirms the proper cook times for chicken, pork and beef based on The Doctors recommended 4 ounce serving of meat. Be sure to store meat in a clean container with a lid, on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to avoid any drippings that can spoil other foods.
• In a skillet on medium to high heat, cook chicken breasts for 3 minutes on each side, add your favorite toppings, then roast in the oven for 5 to 9 minutes.
• Broil pork for 3 to 5 minutes per side.
• For a medium-rare steak, cook in a grill pan for 4 to 5 minutes per side.
• Ground beef appears brown before reaching a safe internal temperature. Make sure to grill hamburgers at least 3 minutes per side, and let them rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Guide to Cooking Meat
• Cook beef steaks, fish and lamb at 145 degrees Fahrenheit Cook pork and ground meat at 160 degrees Fahrenheit Cook chicken breast at 170 degrees Fahrenheit 

Food Heating Safety Don't heat foods in a plastic container to prevent chemicals from the plastic leeching into your food
Don't cook in nonstick pans that have a scratched coating Don't overheat pans

Jackie Keller's BBQ Tips

1. "Always lower the pH of whatever it is you’re making by adding something that acidifies the dish,” founding director of NutriFit and celebrity nutrition expert Jackie Keller advises.

To make a marinade more acidic, add:
• Lemon juice
• Lime juice
• Orange juice
• Alcohol

2. Don’t reuse marinades.

3. Keep ingredients separated.

The Five-Second Rule
Can you really eat food that's fallen on the floor if you pick it up within five seconds? With the help of four-year-old Jesse, pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears puts the five-second rule to the test.The team tests the amount of germs on cheese puffs and apple slices after they've been dropped on grass, tile and cement. See which food-floor combination picked up the most bacteria.

Dr. Sears says that all 12 samples actually grew some degree of bacteria, so if food falls on the floor, it will pick up some dirt. Some of the bacteria might not cause any harm, but it's better to be safe then sorry. "In general, use the zero-second rule," Dr. Sears says. "If it touches the ground, it's going to get germs on it regardless."

Frozen Meals Eating a frozen meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner may be convenient, but is it healthy? "People often ask me and the rest of The Doctors, 'Is it OK to eat a frozen meal?'" E.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork says. "And the answer is: sometimes yes, sometimes no. There are dos and don'ts."

Dr. Travis reveals what to look for when you buy a frozen meal:
Calories: Make sure the meal contains less than 500 calories. Fat: Look for a meal that has less than 15 grams of total fat and 5 grams of saturated fat. Fiber: Try to buy frozen meals that contain at least 3.5 grams of fiber. • Sodium content: Frozen meals tend to contain high amounts of sodium, so be careful. Look for packages with less than 700 mg of sodium. "I would actually say, [the number should be] more like 500 mg of sodium or less," Dr. Travis says.

"Look at that first ingredient," Dr. Travis says. "Is it a whole grain? Is it a vegetable? If you look at that list of ingredients, and you're seeing things that you can't really pronounce, and it takes until the number two, or three or fourth ingredient until you understand what it is, I don't know if I'd buy that.

Learn about The Doctors' movement to reduce sodium intake and take the pledge to Halt the Salt!

Parasites Gastroenterologist Dr. Su Sachar explains that parasites are organisms that live in your intestinal tract and are often contracted through contaminated water and food that hasn't been properly cleaned. In some cases, parasites can enter your bloodstream through the intestinal wall and infest major organs, such as the liver or brain. Fortunately, parasites are highly curable, with some cases only requiring one treatment.

Parasites affect one billion people worldwide. One of the most common parasites is the tapeworm, which can grow up to 50 feet long and can live in your body insidiously for 20 years. Tapeworm symptoms are very non-specific, so if you experience ongoing nausea, abdominal pain or diarrhea, be sure to consult your doctor.

Americans often contract parasites while traveling abroad. Dr. Sachar recommends steering clear of all tap water, including ice, as well as only eating peeled fruits when visiting another country.