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Disease-control officials estimate that about one in six Americans get sick from food each year. One hundred thirty thousand have to go to a hospital for food poisoning. And three thousand die. Health officials say these numbers usually increase during this time of year as more Americans cook and eat outdoors.
Andrea Darlas got infected with salmonella bacteria after eating hummus at a food festival. "I was dehydrated. I had a high fever, chills." She was lucky. A study found that salmonella was the leading cause of death from food-borne diseases in the United States between two thousand and two thousand eight.
"Good morning, Meat and Poultry Hotline, may I help you?" The United States Department of Agriculture started its Meat and Poultry Hotline in nineteen eighty-five. The hotline receives about seventy thousand telephone calls a year from people with food safety questions.
"I’m going to be going to a cookout this coming weekend and I am supposed to be bringing the raw hamburgers. So I am a little nervous about traveling with hamburgers. So I just wanted to get some advice on how I could do it safely."
The calls are answered by food safety specialists like Tina Hanes. "This time of year we are getting grilling-type questions or questions from people who are asking about picnics and traveling with food."
"I was just wondering…can you re-use marinade that you have used on raw chicken on cooked meat?" "Well, you can reuse it as long as you do one important thing. That is to cook it off. You have to boil it first."
The Meat and Poultry Hotline has expanded its programs to include Spanish language services. Also, people can ask questions through e-mail and live chats and get information on social media sites.
Kathy Bernard is project coordinator for the hotline. "We teach consumers everyday, one to one, about how to handle food safely and to prevent food-borne illness. In addition, we also take calls that are related to complaints about food products that has led to foods being recalled, and we think that has probably saved lives."
Dr. Robynne Chutkan at Georgetown Hospital in Washington says people can reduce their risk by taking some simple steps. "One of the most important things is to make sure your meat is adequately cooked. I do not recommend that anybody be having a rare hamburger when they are cooking out in the summer. If you’re cooking eggs -- we have seen a lot of salmonella in the United States -- you want to make sure the yolks are firm."
And she says drinking or eating things that contain uncooked eggs is "definitely not a good idea."