Food Safety: The Raw Truth
To many people, food safety is a ho-hum subject—something one doesn’t think about until suddenly there are flu-like symptoms (nausea, diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramping, vomiting). Then it’s “Oh, my gosh, what did I eat?” and thinking back to try to find the culprit.
One consequence of having diabetes is that it may leave you more susceptible to developing infections—such as those that can be brought on by disease-causing bacteria and other pathogens that cause foodborne illness.
There are many sources of foodborne illness, including eating unwashed foods, using contaminated cutting boards and knives, and cooling food for too long on the counter before refrigerating. Some causes of foodborne illness may be less obvious, such as eating raw foods. Although using more unprocessed fruits and vegetables is encouraged, it’s important to be aware of raw foods that are more likely to cause illness.
You may find salad recipes calling for garnishes of fresh (uncooked) alfalfa sprouts, and purchased sandwiches may contain raw sprouts. Or perhaps you like Asian dishes garnished with raw bean sprouts. Warning: These tiny sprouts can harbor mighty bacteria. So, to be safe, you’ll want to avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind (alfalfa, clover, radish, mung beans, etc.). Seeds and beans can become contaminated during harvesting, storage, or sprouting. They also need warm and humid conditions to sprout and grow—conditions that are also ideal for the growth of bacteria, including Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. Cook sprouts thoroughly before eating. While they won’t be as crisp, any harmful bacteria will be killed.
Some recipes call for raw or undercooked meats and poultry (especially the ground type) or seafood (oysters, sushi, ceviche). Or, when dining out, you may decide to try steak tartare, beef or tuna carpaccio, or raw oysters. Again, just say no: These foods may be contaminated with various viral or bacterial pathogens or parasites, and the only way to destroy the contaminants is cooking with heat. All seafood should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees. All ground meats should be cooked to at least 160 degrees and poultry to 165 degrees.
Ceviche is a dish of raw seafood marinated in lemon or lime juice. While the citrus causes the proteins in the seafood to become more firm, this marinating process will not kill any potential parasites or disease-causing bacteria in the fish. Only heat (cooking to at least 145 degrees) will do that.
For a full review of food safety, foodborne illnesses, and diabetes, you can visit the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service website.
Bon appétit—but don’t take a chance, eat safely!