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Food Recalls: What Parents Should Know, Powered by Nemours Chiildren's Health System

Food Recalls: What Parents Should Know

Do the recent food recalls of romaine lettuce due to E. coli concerns and eggs because of possible Salmonella contamination have you worried? You’re not alone!

These events made the news because the products were widely distributed and the lettuce has been linked to nearly 100 illnesses in 22 states. But it’s easy to miss other recalls or alerts.

That’s why it’s important to know about foodborne illnesses and food safety. Everyday precautions can help protect your family from “food poisoning” and the diarrhea and vomiting it can cause.

What Are Foodborne Illnesses?

Foodborne illnesses happen when people ingest food or drinks contaminated by bacteria. Common culprits include E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Listeria.

Bacteria can spread through food via:

  • undercooked poultry, eggs, and beef
  • fruit and veggies contaminated through soil or washed in contaminated water
  • unpasteurized (raw) milk, dairy, or juice products
  • deli meats and cold cuts
  • soft-ripened cheese
  • uncooked hot dogs
  • shellfish

How Can I Protect My Family?

Safe food preparation can go a long way toward protecting your family from food-related infections. This includes:

  • cooking meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood thoroughly
  • cleaning anything (surfaces, utensils, etc.) that had contact with raw meat
  • promptly refrigerating leftovers
  • cleaning raw fruit and veggies before serving
  • buying pasteurized juices and dairy products
  • not buying produce with broken skin
  • not using eggs with broken or cracked shells

Everyone in the family should wash their hands well and often. This is especially important after going to the bathroom, touching animals, or playing outside, and before eating or preparing food.

What Problems Can Foodborne Illnesses Cause?

Infections from contaminated food can cause diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and dehydration. Sometimes, infections can cause more serious problems.

For instance:

  • Severe Listeria infection in someone with a weak immune system might lead to gastroenteritis (the “stomach flu”), bacteremia (a bacterial blood infection), sepsis (a dangerous full-body response to bacteremia), meningitis, and other problems.
  • Diarrhea that is severe or lasts a long time can cause dehydration. This can be dangerous for babies and young kids, as well as anyone with a weakened immune system.
  • A few people with coli infections develop a serious kidney and blood problem called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

Learn More

Great sources for recalls and other alerts include the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Health and Human Services (HHS) FoodSafety, and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) websites.

Michelle Karten, MD

About Michelle Karten, MD

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Dr. Michelle Karten is a primary care pediatrician at Nemours duPont Pediatrics, Villanova in Villanova, Pa.