The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 48 million people in the
U.S. get sick from food borne disease each year. Of that number 128,000
are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. Due to Hawaii's popular outdoor lifestyle,
residents and visitors here may face an even higher risk.
Exposed food is at a higher risk of contamination from airborne pathogens
like bacteria when it is not properly refrigerated or heated, and from
human or insect contact. According to the Department of Health, side dishes
such as potato salad are the biggest culprits in transmitting harmful
bacteria because they contain ingredients like mayonnaise that "go
bad" when not refrigerated.
The DOH says that in Hawaii, cooked rice is often the cause of food borne
illnesses. This is because of the cultural popularity of rice, spam musubi,
chili and rice, and other such favorites. A simple rule to follow when
picnicking is that hot foods should stay hot, and cold foods should stay
cold. All food should remain covered to avoid contact with insects.
Another important safety measure to prevent food borne illness is to keep
raw meats and their juices and cooked meats separated at all times. Containers
used for raw meats should not be used to store cooked meats before they
are washed. All utensils and surfaces used for cooking should be kept
separated and never used for serving before being washed.
Obviously, it is important to wash your hands before and after handling
any food. If no water is available, hygienic towelettes and hand wipes
should be used. Food should never sit out for more than one hour when
the temperature is above 90 degrees, something that is not unusual at
a beach picnic or barbeque in Hawaii. Perishable foods that are left out
for more than two hours at room temperature should be discarded after
All fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed, even packed items
marked "washed" or "ready to eat".
The most common food borne pathogens that cause illness is Campylobacter,
which was identified in 578 food borne illness cases in 2009. This bacteria
is most commonly found in undercooked chicken, and foods contaminated
with the juices of uncooked chicken. As chicken is such a popular barbeque
choice in Hawaii, residents and visitors should take special care when
Symptoms of food borne illness include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and
stomach cramps. Consult a physician if symptoms persist.