Lonny Stark of the Rock River Times (Illinois) reports that scoring a severe case of food poisoning is enough to provoke an obsessive-compulsive fear of germs.
The most common bacterial culprits in foodborne illness are Salmonella, Campylobacter and a strain of E. coli referred to as O157:H7. The group of “Norwalk” viruses also contributes to a large number of food poisoning cases. Typical symptoms of gastrointestinal distress and fever appear within one to 48 hours after contracting the bug, and may take from three days to several weeks to clear up.
Bacteria reproduce by dividing, and when conditions are ideal, their numbers can multiply quickly, doubling with each generation. For example, E. coli can reproduce every 20 minutes–increasing by a hundredfold within a few hours!
What are the ideal conditions for bacteria to reproduce? A warm summer day is just perfect. Even food that has been properly cleaned and cooked can become dangerous if left out in the warm air for hours during a picnic, but poorly handled food is even more dangerous. A common scenario in cases of food poisoning is cutting uncooked vegetables on the same board where raw meat was prepared, without sanitizing the board. Undercooked meat, food that has been stored for too long, and unwashed vegetables are also frequent causes of contamination. The USDA recommends keeping cold food at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and hot food at or above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. They also recommend not keeping food out for more than two hours. A