Who Brought the Sauce? Prevention of Foodborne Illness During the Holidays

Author: Amanda Thornton, CIC, RN, MSN

Categories: General Infection Prevention, Hand Hygiene & Surface Disinfection November 9, 2021
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As we once again approach the holiday season, we gather with friends and family bringing holiday cheer, friendship, lots of love, and lots of food, the one thing we don’t want to bring is a foodborne illness.  Food safety is especially important at large gatherings, and in places where impromptu “potlucks” may pop up such as the break rooms for health care workers.  Last year, COVID-19 restrictions prohibited visitors from entering healthcare facilities especially with vulnerable populations such as long-term care. This year may see an increase in holiday visitations, making up for lost time, and bringing food with them to share.  As we plan our get-togethers and the Pinterest meals we will bring with us, let’s look at some of the ways we can protect our loved ones from bacteria that can ruin the fun.

Foodborne illnesses come from eating contaminated foods and can be caused by multiple different types of microorganisms.  In fact, researchers have identified 250 organisms so far that can cause illnesses when ingested after eating.  The top five germs that cause illness from food eaten in the United States are Norovirus, Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter, and Staphylococcus aureus1.  Foodborne illnesses can cause a variety of different symptoms, sometimes causing extremely serious illnesses needing hospitalization, especially those in high-risk groups such as the immunocompromised, the very young, the very old, and pregnant women.  Foods that commonly cause food-related illnesses include raw or undercooked meats, seafood, and raw shellfish, fruits and vegetables, raw eggs, and raw flour2.  To avoid the germs that come with these types of foods, ensure thorough cooking (use a food thermometer), wash fruits and vegetables well, keep hot food hot, and cold food cold, and be sure to refrigerate or freeze any perishable foods within two hours.

It is important to note that food preparation surfaces can also contaminate foods.  Food prep areas such as kitchen counters and tables where food is served should be sanitized properly to avoid passing along the unwanted disease. When thawing or prepping raw foods, be sure the cutting boards, utensils, and dishes remain separate, and thoroughly sanitize areas where raw food is prepared before preparing other foods. Pre-saturated sanitizing wipes, like the Sani Professional No-Rinse Sanitizing Wipes, are available to ensure proper cleaning and sanitization practices are easy to follow during the holiday season.

Perhaps the most important food safety tip of all is to wash your hands! Every healthcare worker knows the “five moments of hand hygiene” which include before entering a patient room, before any procedure, after potential exposure to blood or bodily fluids, after touching the patient, and after touching the patient’s surroundings 3.  But what are the key moments of hand hygiene for food safety?  Food safety hand hygiene should include washing hands thoroughly with soap and water or use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (gel or hand wipe) in the following situations: Before, during, and after preparing food, before eating food, after handling pet food or pet treats or touching pets, after using the toilet, after changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet, after touching garbage, before and after caring for someone who is sick, before and after treating a cut or wound, after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing4.

It is also important to ensure when visiting a loved one in a hospital or long-term care setting that the patient or resident themselves also performs hand hygiene before eating.  For bedbound individuals this can be particularly challenging as getting to the sink may be difficult for them.  Fortunately, there are solutions for this in the form of a pre-saturated hand hygiene wipe or “bedside pack”5.

One study has shown that the use of such a wipe in healthcare contributed to increased hand hygiene compliance and an observed decrease in C. difficile events.So as the holiday lights twinkle and we raise a (clean) glass in the air we should all say “cheers!” to a healthy and happy holiday season: full of food, great friends/family, and good sauce!

1.  https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/foodborne-germs.html
2. https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/foods-linked-illness.html
3. https://cdn.who.int/media/docs/default-source/integrated-health-services-(ihs)/infection-prevention-and-control/your-5-moments-for-hand-hygiene-poster.pdf?sfvrsn=83e2fb0e_16
4. https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/communication/holidays.html
5. https://pdihc.com/resource/sani-hands-clinical-compendium/
6. “Can improving patient hand hygiene impact Clostridium difficile infection events at an academic medical center?” American Journal of Infection Control, Volume 45, Issue 9, 959 – 963 Authors: M Pokrywka, M Buraczewski, D Frank, H Dixon, J Ferrelli, K Shutt, M Yassin.

Author

Amanda Thornton RN, MSN, CIC, VA-BC
amanda Clinical Science Liaison, PDI West Region

Profile

Amanda has been in nursing for the past 25 years.  She spent nine years as a direct care nurse in many clinical settings. In 2005 she entered into infection control and prevention, where she found a passion for all things related to preventing avoidable HAI’s. She became certified in infection control through the CBIC, and worked as a front line Infection Preventionist until she advanced to be the Chief Clinical Officer of a 68 bed LTAC in Denver Co.

Amanda is also a clinical educator and was an instructor for the LPN and C.N.A. programs through the Unitah Basin Applied Technology College, where she taught the Med-surg, pharmacology, C.N.A. and infection control courses for students.

Amanda is currently a Clinical Science Liaison supporting the West Region.

Contact

Phone: 720-849-1168
Company Website: Pdihc.com
Email: Amanda.Thornton@pdihc.com

Hobbies

Resin geode and fluid Art
Lit RPG fiction
Colorado camping and hiking
Scrapbooking

Education

Master of Science in Nursing – Emphasis in Infection Control and Epidemiology
American Sentinel University, Aurora, Colorado

Bachelor of Science in Nursing, BSN
University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, Colorado

Certification
Certification Board of Infection Control (CBIC) – CIC
Certification Association for Vascular Access – VA – BC

Why I love what I do

I love being a nurse and caring for people.  When I recognized that I could touch many more lives by preventing infections through becoming a Certified Infection Preventionist, I jumped at the chance.  Seeing the impact I can have with patients, families, and staff through sharing my knowledge of infection control has been a highlight of my career. Joining the team at PDI has allowed me to expand my reach even further. At the end of my week, I am so amazed that I have such an awesome opportunity to help protect patients and loved ones from infections through the use of our products, and the proven science behind them!

Areas of Expertise

Infection control and prevention
Environmental disinfection
Ventilator Care
Vascular Access
Long term care
Long term acute care
Dementia care
Infection surveillance technology
Education
Leadership

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