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Putting a Cork in Food-borne Illnesses

Filed Under: Sexual Health at 4:24 pm | By: Susan Coyle, Senior Editor
Red WineSitting down to dinner a few nights ago, I eyed my salad, complete with bite-size pieces of beef, warily. The headlines I scan daily ran through my head, each one proclaiming a new recall (spinach, lettuce, meat ). The meal I had anticipated with excitement looked more like a bowlful of disease than a bowlful of crisp nourishment. Nevertheless, I dug in, determined not to let paranoia ruin my food but not before I poured myself a glass of wine. If I was going to end up in the hospital with E. coli poisoning, I would have a complete and thoroughly enjoyable dining experience first. Obviously, I survived the salad, and when I got to work the following day, I was delighted to discover that even if my lettuce or meat had been contaminated, my glass of merlot would have staved off or at least helped prevent a trip to the doctor.

Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia recently examined the effects of wine on food-borne pathogens. While those made with white grapes produced no results, the red varietals, namely merlot, cabernet and zinfandel, proved effective against the pathogens. They protected the body from infection without harming the useful bacteria.  Scientists believe that wine’s ethanol, phytochemicals, especially resveratrol, and acidity, combined, create this defense. So, by all means, have a glass of wine with dinner. However, don’t rely solely on a beverage to prevent food-borne illnesses. Other precautions are necessary as well.

Food-borne illnesses  are best prevented with proper food handling. This starts with cleanliness. Wash your hands, your utensils, your cutting boards, dishes and food. If you use a plate to hold the raw meat, use a different one or clean the same one thoroughly before using it for the cooked product. And before you serve, measure the temperature of that meat with a thermometer. Completely cooking your food will kill many more bacteria than leaving it red and raw will.  Once you’ve finished eating, refrigerate the leftovers. If there are a lot, separate them into several shallow containers rather than one large bin. Finally, be aware and cautious. Food-borne illnesses happen more often than the headlines tout, 76 million a year in fact. Most of them don’t warrant media attention, but that doesn’t make them any less dreadful.

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