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Summer safety: Tips to prevent food poisoning

Consider your food safely cooked when the internal temperature gets high enough to kill germs. You can check the temperature of your food by using a food thermometer. (U.S. Navy file photo) Consider your food safely cooked when the internal temperature gets high enough to kill germs. You can check the temperature of your food by using a food thermometer. (U.S. Navy file photo)

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FALLS CHURCH, Va. — Summertime is filled with special occasions focused on family, friends, and food. While cookouts and picnics are fun, food preparation and storage is a serious consideration in the summer months. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that each year, nearly 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness. Although proper preparation and prevention help reduce the chances of getting sick from food, it’s also important to be familiar with your TRICARE treatment options.  

Symptoms of foodborne illness, also called food poisoning, occurs when contaminated food is eaten and causes an adverse reaction. This reaction may differ among various illness strains, but most include stomach cramping, vomiting, and diarrhea. Pregnant women, young children, older adults, and individuals with conditions causing a weakened immune system are at an increased risk for food poisoning.

Most food poisoning symptoms are minor and will get better without treatment. If symptoms continue or worsen, see your doctor or seek urgent care. You can also contact the Military Health System Nurse Advice Line (MHS NAL) 24/7 with urgent care questions. In the U.S., call 1-800-TRICARE (1-800-874-2273) and select option 1. On the MHS NAL website, you can also chat with a nurse or find country-specific phone numbers.

According to the CDC, following four simple steps at home — clean, separate, cook, and chill — can help protect you and your loved ones from food poisoning.

  • Clean - Wash your hands and clean kitchen surfaces often when cooking. Use soap and warm water when washing hands and make sure to wash continuously for at least 20 seconds. Wash your cookware and utensils thoroughly.
  • Separate - Keep foods apart and don’t cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods in the refrigerator and when grocery shopping. Use separate cutting boards and plates for these foods before they’re cooked.
  • Cook thoroughly - Consider your food safely cooked when the internal temperature gets high enough to kill germs. You can check the temperature of your food by using a food thermometer. Use this chart for comparing food temperatures.
  • Chill - Refrigerate perishable food within two hours or within one hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90°F. Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. Don’t leave food at room temperature where bacteria can easily grow.


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