Foodborne illness increases during summer months and outbreaks are often linked to fairs and festivals. To help everyone safely enjoy their time at the fair, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has compiled some food safety tips.
One of the biggest things to keep in mind, according to the agency, is that food safety issues are the same no matter where food is being prepared and served. People preparing food prepared outdoors, or in a truck need to use the same safety controls they would in a kitchen- such as storing food at the proper temperatures, avoiding cross-contamination, monitoring temperatures and keeping, hands, utensils and work surfaces clean.
Before buying food from a festival vendor, the CDC advises, ask yourself the following questions: Does the workstation look clean? Does the vendor have a sink for employees to wash their hands? Do employees wear gloves or use tongs when handling food? Does the vendor have refrigeration on site for raw ingredients or pre-cooked foods? Has the vendor been inspected? Is a recent inspection report available?
As an alternative, consider bringing your own food. If you do, remember to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot until they are eaten. Food can’t sit out for more than two hours, or one hour on a hot day (90°F or higher), without becoming spoiled.
Wash your hands frequently while you are at the fair. This is a must after petting animals, touching an animal enclosure or visiting an area where live animals are kept even if you did not touch an animal. Wash your children’s hands, too. And do not bring pacifiers, bottles, sippy cups, teething toys or any other items a child may put in his her mouth into these areas.
Wash hands after using the restroom, playing a game, going on a ride, before eating and drinking, before preparing food or drinks, after changing diapers, and after removing soiled clothes or shoes. Ideally, hands should be washed with soap and warm, running water for 20 seconds. Bring hand sanitizers or disposable wipes in case there aren’t any places to wash your hands. These are not as affective as washing hands but do provide some protection.
If you get sick, report it to the health department. If you have symptoms of an E.coli infection which include abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhea do not take anti-diarrhea medicines or antibiotics as these can make am E. coli infection worse. See a doctor, if you have these symptoms and mention possible exposure to E. coli at a fair.
Last year, five people who attended the Red River Vally fair, developed E. coli infections. And 25 people who attended the Milk Makers Fest, at the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds in Lynden, Washington got E. coli infections. Most of them were first grade students from public schools around Bellingham, Washington, and surrounding Whatcom County. Ten people were hospitalized including four children who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) a life-threatening complication of E.coli infections that causes kidney failure, seizure, stroke and coma.