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The Illinois Poison Center is reminding the public to use proper food handling techniques when cooking to prevent food poisoning and other illnesses.

“Food poisoning as a result of mishandled or undercooked food is not uncommon during the holiday season,” Dr. Mike Wahl, IPC medical director said in a news release. “Food-borne illnesses can be particularly serious for people in poor health, young children and the elderly.”

People who have contracted a form of food poisoning may experience symptoms that include nausea, fever, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea. Depending on the exact type of food poisoning, symptoms may last from several hours to several days.

Experts at the IPC offer the following recommendations to prevent food poisonings:

• Use a meat thermometer to confirm that meat, pork and poultry are properly cooked.

• Keep preparation and storage areas, including countertops, stovetops and refrigerators, clean.

• Wash hands with soap and warm running water for at least 15 to 20 seconds before preparing any foods, and especially after handling raw meat, poultry, fish or eggs.

• Wash utensils between each use. Never reuse utensils because dirty utensils can be a source of contamination.

• Thaw meat and poultry in the refrigerator or microwave, not at room temperature.

• Do not prepare food if you are sick or have any type of nose or eye infection.

• Store raw food below cooked food in the refrigerator so it cannot drip onto and contaminate cooked food.

• Use separate cutting boards for meats, poultry and fish.

To ensure that leftovers are safe the next day, properly seal and store food in the refrigerator as soon as possible. If you are unsure about how long perishable foods, particularly meat, poultry and dairy, have been left out, throw the items away to eliminate your risk of food poisoning.

“Food is a central part of our holiday traditions. Preventing food poisoning through good food preparation techniques and storage is a great way to ensure a healthy and happy holiday season,” Wahl said.

If you think you or someone you know has food poisoning, please the IPC at call800-222-1222 for treatment recommendations.

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