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Protect yourself from food poisoning

Cantaloupe?

Lettuce?

Sprouts?

Ground beef?

Is anything safe?

It depends.

If I buy it locally, or from my farmer’s market or CSA, will it be safe?

Not necessarily.

Can foods from my own garden be a danger?

Yes.

Rocky Ford cantaloupe were grown locally, Colorado Proud and 375 miles away. Deaths and numbers sick continue to increase. Could this have happened if the foods had been grown here in our southwest Colorado? Could it have happened on an organic or grass fed farm? You bet — for any items listed above.

One in six of us will experience some level of food poisoning annually. Sometimes we are violently ill and sometimes hardly even notice it. Potentially fatal bacteria such as Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli and Norwalk are found in our water and soils, as well as our digestive system and our animals’ intestines. Over the course of evolution, harmless bacteria mutate as part of their life’s evolution. If those mutations are not removed or are transferred to another host agent and then ingested, toxins make people sick. Sickness can vary person to person (with same amount ingested, same food source, same time, even same family meal). It can result in several days of abdominal cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever and as toxins multiply, it takes a small amount to end up with hospitalization or death. On the other hand, it could manifest itself as a slightly turbulent stomach or perhaps a headache.

Bacteria multiply quickly with proper environment. One friend recently stated bacteria are immoral — they don’t even take time to get to know each other, but rather copulate and multiply all within 15 minutes or less. Well, it does create a memory!

Sprouts (all sprouts) are always a risky food item. Honestly, I know of no food safety specialist who eats sprouts, homegrown or store purchased. Bacteria such as E. Coli or salmonella can deposit on the plant or reside inside the seed. It then grows in a moist, warm environment ideal for bacterial growth. Once it grows, it is virtually impossible to remove unless the sprouts are cooked (USDA requirement in child care facilities).

Typically an outbreak is identified quickly, but the source of the offending food takes a lot more detective work to identify. There is a reason not everyone who comes in contact with the bacteria gets sick. It is all about one’s overall health and the everyday things we do like rinsing, cleaning and cooking.

Shop strategically — keep produce separate from protein foods in store cart, bag separately, and store separately.

Clean all good quality fruits and vegetables before eating with running water and a brush, including pre-bagged greens. It can hide in nooks and crannies.

Clean surfaces of kitchen before during and after preparing foods and avoid cross contamination.

Sanitize after use of cutting boards and tools using dishwasher or a solution of 1/4 teaspoon chlorine bleach to 1 cup tepid water applied to surfaces after they are cleaned.

Cook produce and meats to adequate temperature (try using a thermometer). Meat color is not sufficient. Minimum temperatures: 145F for steak, fish, roasts; 160F for pork or ground beef; and 165F for poultry.

Refrigerate foods and leftovers within a two hour time span.

Master Gardener

The Colorado State University Extension Office staff in Archuleta County is excited to announce we are now accepting applications for the 2012 Colorado Master Gardener (CMG) program until Dec. 30.

Students will receive training in tree care, vegetables, soils, native plants, water wise gardening, pruning and much more. The training utilizes onsite and distant education experts to teach a series of eleven classes.

Classes start Jan. 26 and will take place at the Archuleta County Fairgrounds every Thursday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. The cost is $240 if you intend to volunteer, $575 for a certificate without volunteer time.

CMG volunteers are expected to complete 50 hours of volunteer time in the first year and 24 hours in subsequent years.?

Contact the Colorado State University Extension Office in Pagosa Springs at 264-5931 for more information or an application.

Calendar

Oct. 13 — Mountain View Homemakers, noon.

Oct. 13 — 4-H Colorado Mountaineers, 6 p.m.

Oct. 14 — 4-H Wolf Creek Wonders Club, 2 p.m.

Oct. 17 — Back Country Horseman, 6 p.m.

Oct. 18 — 4-H Council meeting, 6 p.m.

Oct. 19 — Mountain High Garden Club, 9:30 p.m.

Check out our webpage at www.archuleta.colostate.edu for calendar events and information.

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