Food poisoning cases often peak when temperatures are high from May to October, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said, urging people to practice good food hygiene and avoid eating raw seafood.
As the weather turns hot and humid, the conditions are optimal for many types of microorganisms to grow, the agency said, adding that people are advised to take five precautionary measures: washing their hands; eating fresh food; keeping raw and cooked food apart; keeping food at appropriate temperatures; and thoroughly washing and cooking food.
The FDA urged people to wash their hands well and cover any wounds before preparing food; use water from disinfected sources; and avoid cross-contamination by using different utensils, cutting boards and containers for raw and cooked food.
Food must be heated above 70°C to eliminate most bacteria, while ingredients should be stored below 7°C to keep them fresh, the agency said.
According to FDA statistics, more than 5,000 cases of food poisoning were reported last year, most of which were attributed to Bacillus cereus, followed by norovirus and Salmonella.
Shellfish and raw oysters are often contaminated with norovirus, whereas raw fish often carries Vibrio parahemolytica bacteria, and these pathogens grow faster under warm and moist conditions, so people should avoid eating them raw, FDA section chief Lin Lan-yu (林蘭砡) said
Vibrio parahemolytica populations in raw fish can double within 12 minutes at room temperature, she said, adding that Bacillus cereus multiplies rapidly when the temperature is above 20°C and is often the cause of collective food poisoning in groups or on school campuses.
Raw and undercooked meat and eggs can contain Salmonella bacteria, while fresh salad that is kept at room temperature for too long could see an explosion of Staphylococcus aureus growth.
“There are many bacteria in raw fish and when people eat raw fish that has been contaminated with bacteria, they can suffer acute diarrhea,” Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital nephrologist Yen Tzung-hai (顏宗海) said.
“Older people, people with cancer and those on chemotherapy, or people with serious diseases might even develop sepsis from eating food contaminated with Salmonella,” he said.
“Washing with plenty of clean water is not enough to get rid of bacteria and the best way is to cook food thoroughly,” he said, adding that people should maintain good environmental hygiene when preparing food, keep fresh food ingredients refrigerated below 4°C, eat raw food as soon as possible and keep cooked food at room temperature for no more than two hours.
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