Because foodborne pathogens take advantage of the impaired immune system, people with HIV/AIDS are more susceptible to food-related illnesses than otherwise healthy individuals. If a person with HIV/AIDS acquires a foodborne disease, the illness can be difficult to treat, putting the person at risk for persistent and generalized infections. In fact, acquiring a foodborne illness can hasten the progression of HIV and even be fatal for a person with AIDS. Therefore, everyone with HIV/AIDS should be aware of and practice food safety recommendations.
The enemy: Salmonella, Campylobacter jejuni and Listeria monocytogenes are just a few of the "bad bugs" known to cause food-related illnesses. The defense: You! Foodborne diseases are often avoidable and safe food-handling behavior is the key to their prevention. Here are some basic food safety recommendations to help you protect yourself from food-related illnesses.
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before handling food.
- Use different cutting boards for raw and cooked foods. If possible, use a different cutting board for raw meat products.
- Never thaw frozen foods at room temperature. Thaw food in the refrigerator, under cold running water or in the microwave.
- Keep foods at the correct temperatures. Use a cooking thermometer for hot foods and test the temperature of the refrigerator and freezer.
- Hot foods: cook at 165° F to 180° F and hold at 140° F to 165° F.
- Cold foods: keep the refrigerator set between 35°-40° F and the freezer at 0° F.
- Do not eat foods that have been left out of the refrigerator for more than two hours.
- Never place cooked food on a plate which previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood.
- Avoid the following: raw or undercooked meat, poultry or seafood; unpasteurized dairy products and fruit juices; raw sprouts such as alfalfa; raw or partially cooked eggs or foods containing raw eggs.
- Scrub fruits and vegetables with a brush under running water. Fruits such as melons also need to be washed before cutting.
- Consider using paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces. If you use cloth towels, wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
The new year is a perfect time to adopt behaviors that help keep you healthy. Eat well, exercise, get plenty of rest and remember these food safety tips. For more information about food safety or any other nutrition issue, call AIDS Treatment Initiatives (ATI) at (404) 659-2437. I wish everyone a happy and healthy year. Remember to eat your fruits and vegetables, but don't forget to wash them well!