Avoiding food-borne illnesses at your summertime gatherings

(Western Mass News photo)

A salmonella outbreak linked to Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal has been reported in 31 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

This comes following a recent e.Coli outbreak that was traced to romaine lettuce grown in Arizona.

Picnic season is approaching and the warmer months are the perfect time to enjoy family and friends, but according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food-borne illnesses peak during summer months.

"With the nice weather, you're thinking about barbecues and you're thinking about people having get-togethers, picnics, parties...food is left out sitting," said Hassen Borhot, a nurse practitioner with American Family Care in West Springfield.

Borhot told Western Mass News that bacteria thrives in hot weather.

"The temperature being warmer, the humidity in the air, these are all growth mediums for bacteria which they love these types of environments," Borhot added.

It is not possible for consumers to tell if food is contaminated by e.Coli or salmonella just by looking at it, but there are steps that can be taken to reduce your chances of catching a food-borne illness.

"Obviously, hygiene is very important, so washing things pretty thoroughly especially fruits and vegetables," Borhot noted.

Everyone is at risk when it comes to food being exposed to bacteria, so don't let food sit, especially in warmer temperatures and cook and shop with care.

"Making sure cans have proper shelf life on them, making sure the cans aren't damaged because bacteria can grow in these environments," Borhot explained.

Regarding the Kellogg's Honey Smacks cereal salmonella outbreak, Borhot has a guess to the culprit: the honey.

"It's very sugary, very sweet. These types of things bacteria love - warm environments. These are culture meetings for bacteria," Borhot said.

Symptoms of food-borne illnesses can develop anywhere from a couple of days to a week later.

"Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea is a huge one, belly pain, cramping," Borhot noted.

There is no cure for these types of infections and treatments will vary depending on the type and severity of the bacteria, so seek medical attention if you or a family member feels sick.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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