Food safety is important, especially for people living with HIV. Every year, over 4 million Canadians get food poisoning also known as foodborne illness.

If you know me, you know that I take food safety very seriously. I am very strict about following the guidelines from Health Canada for people with compromised immune systems. I realize that people living with HIV are much healthier now than they used to be and their CD4 counts are often normal, however it’s still important to take extra precaution. If just one person with extremely low CD4 counts gets sick from any food that we provided, not only could it have extremely negative consequences but we wouldn’t be doing our jobs.

Food poisoning occurs when a person gets sick from eating food that has been contaminated with harmful bacteria, parasites or viruses. The most common symptoms of food poisoning include stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever.

Protect yourself by learning about food poisoning, its symptoms and treatments and how to avoid getting sick in the first place.

Here are a few suggestions from Health Canada on foods to avoid and safe food handling techniques. You may also click on the link below to view more information on Health Canada’s website for people with compromised immune systems.

Keep foods at safe temperatures

  • Keep your refrigerator below 40°F.(4.5 degrees C)
  • Store all perishable foods such as eggs, meat, and dairy at or below 40°F.(4.5 degrees C)
  • Throw away perishable ready-to-eat or leftover foods after 2 days.
  • Thaw foods in the refrigerator or under cold running water.
  • Do not prepare food more than 2 hours before serving without plans for proper cooling.
  • Take only foods that can be kept at safe temperatures in carried meals

Avoid risky foods.  These include:

  • raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs, fish and shell fish
  • unpasteurized milk and chilled fruit juices
  • raw sprouts (like alfalfa)
  • soft cheeses made with raw milk
  • hot dogs and luncheon meats that have not been reheated to steaming hot
  • refrigerated pates and meat spreads
  • refrigerated smoked fish and pre-cook seafood, such as shrimp and crab
  • grapefruit and grapefruit juice and tangelo’s can interfere with medication absorption rates and cause problems
  • Soft cheeses like feta, Brie, Camembert, and queso blanco fresco

Beware the “bad bugs”

These types of foodborne illnesses are dangerous for people with weakened immune systems:

E. coli O157:H7 infection – caused by bacteria that may be found in foods such as:
• raw and undercooked ground beef
• unpasteurized fruit juice or cider
• sprouts
• unpasteurized dairy products

Listeria infection – caused by bacteria that may be found in a wide variety of refrigerated ready-to-eat foods, such as:
• raw and unpasteurized dairy products
• non-dried deli meats
• hot dogs straight from the package

Vibrio infection – caused by bacteria that may be found in raw and undercooked shellfish, such as:
• oysters
• clams
• mussels

Salmonella infection – caused by bacteria that may be found in a variety of foods but especially in:
• raw and undercooked chicken
• raw eggs
• raw milk

Food safety is important. Proper cooking techniques not only make food taste delicious but it also makes it healthier and helps to avoid potential illness. Find out more about proper cooking techniques from yours truly at Cooking with Coral. Check out our website for the next cooking session.

Bon Appétit!

Coral Bush