Article written for the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad – published in local news outlets in July 2017

Scotch Plains Rescue Squad Tip of the Month – Avoid Food Poisoning

This is the season for barbecues and outside parties. It’s a great time to get together with friends and share stories and good food while enjoying the great outdoors. However, according to the CDC, approximately 1 in 6 Americans gets sick and 128,000 are hospitalized every year from foodborne illnesses.
Hamburgers are a common menu item in the summertime. To avoid E. coli, be sure to cook ground beef to a minimum 160 degrees, which will kill this bacteria. For pork, steaks, and fish, the temperature should be at 145°. Barbecued chicken is another favorite. To help kill salmonella, another dangerous bacterium and one of the most frequent causes of food poisonings, cook it to at least 165°. Deviled eggs are another popular addition, and they can also make you sick if left out in the heat for too long. Make sure they’re kept on ice so bacteria cannot grow. Other salads, such as potato, macaroni and coleslaw, should be kept on ice at all times as well. The basic rule is: keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. The Mayo Clinic advises us to, “Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods promptly — within two hours of purchasing or preparing them. If the temperature is above 90° F (32.2 C), refrigerate perishable foods within one hour.” Even fruits and vegetables can be troublesome. If not washed properly, the Listeria bacteria can survive, so rinse thoroughly before serving and eating. And of course, always wash your hands before and after preparing food.
If you do experience symptoms of food poisoning, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and/or stomach cramps, which can last for several hours to several days, make sure you stay hydrated by drinking lots of fluids such as water or electrolyte-enhanced drinks such as Gatorade. For young children, Pedialyte is often helpful.
Food poisoning can often be managed at home. However, if you experience more extreme symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhea lasting more than three days, a temperature higher than 101.5°, dehydration, blurry vision, or muscle weakness, it’s time to see a doctor. He or she may prescribe antibiotics or admit you to a hospital, depending on the bacteria and severity of symptoms, and other risk factors including age and underlying illnesses.
With a few precautions, picnics and barbecues can be a big part of a fun and relaxing summer. Enjoy!
The Scotch Plains Rescue Squad is a volunteer organization of Neighbors Helping Neighbors. With over 90 volunteers, we answer calls not only in Scotch Plains but in surrounding towns as well when needed. Besides answering calls, you will see our ambulances at many special events held in town, such as Scotch Plains Day, the Memorial Day Parade, high school football games, and the summer concerts on the Village Green. We are also available to provide demonstrations for Boys and Girls Scout troops, clubs, and any other group that may be interested in what we do. In addition, we lend out wheelchairs, crutches, canes and other assorted medical equipment free of charge. Please reach out to us if there is something we can do for you. (908) 322-2103 for non-emergencies or

Contributing Author: Susan Baldani, a life member of the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad.