The public should avoid eating undercooked seafood or meat and keep in mind healthy barbecue tips to prevent gastroenterological illness during the Mid-Autumn Festival, Taipei Medical University Hospital said yesterday.
While a custom of barbecuing at home during the Mid-Autumn Festival has formed in recent years, every year at this time the number of patients visiting the hospital’s Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology increases by 20 to 30 percent, the hospital said.
The majority of patients suffer from acute gastroenteritis and indigestion, with symptoms such as abdominal distention, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea, said Chen Hung-wei (陳鴻瑋), a physician at the department.
He said gastroenterological illnesses often occur because of misconceptions about barbecuing.
“One of biggest misconceptions is to apply barbecue sauce to the food as soon as it is put on the barbecue rack,” Chen said, adding that many sauces become carcinogenic when heated, so it is better to apply a small amount of sauce after the food has been well cooked.
He said that although many people think raw fish and half-cooked beef is edible, there are still risks of becoming infected by intestinal parasites and bacteria from eating undercooked seafood or meat, leading to diarrhea.
Another common misconception is that eating pomeloes after barbecuing serves as a fiber supplement to aid better digestion, but eating too much can also cause abdominal distention and diarrhea, Chen said.
Pomelo is a potassium-rich food, so people who suffer from diabetes or kidney disease should avoid eating too much, he added.
Lin Yu-ju (林郁茹), a nutritionist at the hospital’s Department of Dietetics, said equipment such as cutting boards, utensils and containers for handling seafood, meat and vegetables should be separated to prevent cross-contamination.
She said barbecue tongs or chopsticks used for handling raw food should be disinfected in boiling water for more than two minutes before using them to eat cooked food, she said.
Keeping food in sealed containers and refrigerated to less than 7?C also helps prevent pathogens from growing, she said.
Other healthy barbecue tips include eating relatively low-fat meat, such as chicken breast, fish or pork fillet, avoiding salted and cured meat products, adding fruit and vegetables, and making barbecue sauce with fresh ingredients — such as black pepper, garlic, shallots and soy sauce, she said.
Chen said most patients with acute gastroenterological problems show mild symptoms and can recover in a couple of days, but if the symptoms get worse, such as continuous vomiting and diarrhea causing dehydration, the patients should seek medical attention immediately.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the first full moon of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, with falls on Sunday this year.
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