University of Iowa Health Science Relations and
Phyllis Stumbo, PhD
Peer Review Status: Internally Peer Reviewed
The warmth of the summer sun can do wonders for your spirits, but
it can also promote the growth of dangerous bacteria in food. You can
keep the good memories of summer picnics by preventing food poisoning
and the symptoms that could upset your summer fun.
Food poisoning symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, stomach ache,
and possibly fever. Most cases of food poisoning are mild and don't
require hospitalization. However, if symptoms last for more than two
or three days, or if you have a number of the symptoms, see your
"The most important thing to do is to drink plenty of liquids so
you don't become dehydrated. Using a sports drink that contains
water, salt, and sugar can help keep liquid in the body," says Dr.
Phyllis Stumbo, research nutritionist at the University of Iowa
College of Medicine.
Common food poisoning bacteria include salmonella, most often
found in meat and eggs that have not been thoroughly cooked; E. coli
bacteria, found in meat and dairy products that have not been
thoroughly cooked or pasteurized; and botulism, found in improperly
Food poisoning can be prevented by following a few simple steps,
Stumbo says, noting that bacteria need three things to grow: heat,
water, and time. Heat is especially bad for eggs. "Carefully
refrigerate foods that contain lightly cooked eggs, including cream
pies. Even hard-boiled eggs and egg rich foods should not be left out
of the refrigerator for more than two hours. Don't eat raw meat or
eggs or drink unpasteurized milk."
You can prevent food poisoning in home-canned vegetables by
pressure-cooking vegetables before canning. That kills the spores
that can produce the deadly toxin that causes botulism. Boiling
vegetables before eating them also kills the toxin. A swollen or
bulging can is a signal that something dangerous may be growing
inside, and should be discarded.
Even refrigerated foods can have bacterial growth, so examine
bottles and packages carefully, especially those that have been in
the refrigerator for several days or weeks. If bacteria is growing
inside, you can tell by listening closely when you open the lid or
package. If you hear gas escape, don't use the food.
"The best rule is: If in doubt, throw it out!" Stumbo says. "And
before handling food, always wash your hands, wash your hands, wash
If you have food poisoning symptoms, call your doctor. If you are
concerned about food safety, call the U.S. Department of Agriculture
hotline at 800-535-4555,