Food Safety Can Be Crucial For Diabetics
November is National Diabetes Month, spotlighting a disease that is becoming ever more common in the United States (US). According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of Americans with diagnosed diabetes nearly quadrupled in the last three decades, increasing from 5.6 million to 20.9 million between 1980 and the end of 2011.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reminds consumers that diabetes can affect various organs and systems of the body, making those living with this disease more susceptible to foodborne illness, often called "food poisoning." And, if a person with diabetes contracts a foodborne illness, he or she is more likely to have a lengthier illness, undergo hospitalization, or even die. This increased risk underscores the critical role safe food handling plays in managing this chronic disease.
Making Wise Food Choices
Some foods are more risky for people with diabetes than others. In general, the foods that are most likely to contain harmful bacteria or viruses fall in two categories:
Uncooked fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Some animal products, such as unpasteurized (raw) milk; soft cheeses made with raw milk; and raw or undercooked eggs, raw meat, raw poultry, raw fish, raw shellfish and their juices; luncheon meats and deli-type salads (without added preservatives) prepared on site in a deli-type establishment.
Interestingly, the risk these foods may actually pose depends on the origin or source of the food and how the food is processed, stored, and prepared.
For practical guidance for safe selection and preparation of foods for people with diabetes, the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have prepared a free downloadable booklet called Food Safety for People with Diabetes. It is also available for free by calling 1-888-MPHOTLINE (1-888-674-6854) or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow the Four Basic Steps to Food Safety
Anyone who is diabetic or who prepares food for people with diabetes should also carefully follow these steps:
CLEAN: Wash hands and surfaces often. Bacteria can be spread throughout the kitchen and get onto hands, cutting boards, utensils, counter tops and food.
SEPARATE: Separate raw meats from other foods. Cross-contamination can occur when bacteria are spread from one food product to another. This is especially common when handling raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs. The key is to keep these foods—and their juices—away from ready-to-eat foods.
COOK to the right temperatures. Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause illness.
CHILL foods promptly. Cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria. Use an appliance thermometer to be sure the refrigerator temperature is 40 degrees F or below and the freezer temperature is 0 degrees F or below.