from a Scientist

                                  Answers to your questions ...

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Raw (Unpasteurized)
Q: What will happen if we drink unpasteurised milk which was kept outside for 1 week? I had got the milk from farmer not from the shop.
A: Hi Jaya, 

Thank you for asking this question!  

Unpasteurized (raw) milk can be harmful and Stop Foodborne Illness recommends avoiding raw milk and raw milk products completely whether it is bought from a store or a local farmer. Unpasteurized milk has significantly higher counts of bacteria than pasteurized milk. If left unrefrigerated (or outside), bacteria can freely replicate. While children, elderly, and immunocompromised individuals have a greater risk, healthy individuals can also become infected. Drinking raw milk could very likely cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain, and stomach cramping that lasts days. In some cases of raw milk consumption, individuals have suffered from life-threatening illness and even death.  

Mari is a woman who led an active life, was a registered nurse and sought to be as healthy as possible. Read about her personal experience battling Campylobacter after consuming raw milk.

Even for healthy individuals, I personally always advise against consuming unpasteurized milk. Raw milk can carry harmful bacteria such as CampylobacterListeria, and E. coli. In pasteurized milk, harmful bacteria are killed off and are not a concern. However, these pathogens all pose a threat when it comes to raw milk.  

Refrigeration is a key part of keeping the food we eat safe because it prevents bacteria that may be present from increasing quickly. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises consumers not to leave food (including pasteurized and unpasteurized milk) requiring refrigeration out of the fridge for longer than 2 hrs. Additionally, food should not be left outside longer than 1 hr if the temperature is higher than 90 °F.  The longer the food is left unrefrigerated, the greater the risk becomes.  

If you have specific concerns, you should contact the farmer before consuming their milk. Otherwise, check out this article or contact me if you would like additional information or have any follow-up questions. 

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Meat + Poultry
+ Seafood
Q: What should be done if chicken or dairy has been consumed after being left unrefrigerated for 2 days?  My loved one has no signs or symptoms of food poisoning…should we go to the ER anyway or visit urgent care?  Would getting your stomach pumped reverse any effects of food poisoning and eliminate the bacteria from your body? 

A: Hi Tiffany, 

If your loved one is not showing any signs or symptoms of a foodborne illness, such as vomiting and diarrhea, then there is no need to visit an ER or urgent care facility. Without signs or symptoms, it is unlikely that doctors will be able to accurately treat your loved one. I would not recommend a stomach pump procedure. Not only is it an extremely unpleasant procedure that involves sticking multiple tubes down one’s throat, it is also mainly used for acute poisoning cases, not foodborne illnesses. Additionally, chances are, your loved one’s immune system and gut microbiome are strong enough to fight off any unsavory pathogens that were present in the unrefrigerated food.  

It is important to note that it can take days or in some cases weeks after pathogen exposure for a foodborne illness to manifest. However, most foodborne illnesses set in within 4 – 24 hours on average.  

For now, I would recommend you watch for symptoms. If they begin to feel ill, ensure your loved one is well-hydrated and follow a bland food diet, such as the BRAT (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast) diet, for the duration of their illness. If the illness persists for longer than 1 day or if you notice severe symptoms, such as a high fever (above 103°F for adults, above 101°F for children) or bloody diarrhea, seek medical attention. 

If your loved one is under the age of 5, older than 65, pregnant, or has a compromised immune system, it is especially crucial to carefully monitor their symptoms and illness severity. These groups have a higher risk of getting sick and developing a more serious illness.  

Q: My family is at high risk so I have been shopping thru home delivery services. Unfortunately I keep getting products that have tears or rips in it. I just got 3 loaves of bread. 1 had a rip by the top where the twisty thing has it closed. (Target shopper was probably too rushed to be careful).  I hate throwing away food. I was wondering if it could sometimes be safe to eat some of that food. Would it be safe to throw out the bread slices near the rip and eat the rest? 


A: Hi Maria,

Thanks for your question! Online grocery shopping is a very relevant and relatively new option.  I’m sorry that the pandemic and individuals (who have chosen not to take the vaccine) are causing you or your family to feel unsafe about shopping for groceries in person. Hopefully, the risk will decrease in the next year. I also completely understand not wanting to throw away food, especially if there isn’t anything noticeably wrong with it.  
 
Unfortunately, I cannot say food will be safe for consumption if the original packaging is damaged before it reaches you. While it could have occurred during the packing of your order or during delivery, it could also have occurred in the store or before it even reached the store. It is impossible to know. As a result, because of the potential risk, I’d advise you to avoid consuming food from damaged packaging and reach out to the store for a replacement.
 
As a general rule, we say “When in doubt, throw it out.” Have you considered asking a family friend or hiring an acquaintance to shop for you? With someone you know, you could be more specific on what is acceptable for you and your family. 

Handling + Cleaning
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Eggs + Dairy

Q: Sometimes my carton of eggs has a “sell by” date and others have a “use by” date. On the “sell by” dated cartons, how long after that date can I use the eggs? On “use by” dated cartons, is the date firm or can I use them for a day or two longer?

A: Hi Samantha Kelly,  

This is a great question! Even I struggled with this for the longest time. Use by and sell by dates can be quite confusing, so let’s dive into what they are! 
 
A use by date is the date the seller recommends consuming the product by for guaranteed maximum freshness. After this date, it’s not that the food goes bad but that it just might not be as fresh. Additionally, this date is not firm and is just an approximate.  
 
On the other hand, the sell by dates is a date that indicates when the eggs should be sold by (no later than 30 days after raw shell egg packing).  
 
In the case of shell eggs, there’s no need to throw out your eggs if they are past the use by date or the sell by date. After the sell by date, you can go 3-4 weeks if the eggs are stored properly. You can also go approximately 1 – 2 weeks after the use by date. To judge, your senses are your best friend. Do not consume if they smell strange, look odd, have cracks or have been improperly stored at wrong temperatures. Also, I would recommend thoroughly cooking eggs that are older to reduce foodborne illness risk. If you plan on consuming eggs raw or cooking them over easy, I suggest using fresh eggs to minimize risk. However, keep in mind that eating raw or undercooked eggs can be dangerous, which is why we always recommend cooking your eggs well

Q: Cooking icon, Ina Garten, suggested that frozen spinach retains less water than fresh spinach. Is this true? 

A: Hi Manasi,  

Thanks for the question! 

Fresh spinach leaves do retain more water than frozen spinach. Part of the reason for that is because frozen spinach is often blanched before it undergoes freezing. Blanching helps kill harmful bacteria and reduces loss of flavor, color and texture. During this process though, the spinach does lose some water. With that in mind, freshly blanched spinach and frozen spinach is a better comparison. In this case, the water content is not significantly different and is about the same.  

One advantage frozen spinach has over fresh spinach is that it retains more nutrients and folate. Though fresh spinach initially has more nutrients than its frozen counterpart, it begins to lose these nutrients as it is transported from the farm to the market. During this time, fresh spinach loses enough nutrients that frozen spinach ends up having more. This is because the spinach is blanched and frozen shortly after harvesting which essentially freezes it in time. 

As can be seen, both fresh and frozen spinach have their benefits. When debating on which type to use, it really just depends on what you plan on cooking and what will work better for that recipe!  

Fresh + Frozen Produce
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Q: What’s the safest way to wash dishes? In hot or cold water? In what temperature? Should the dishes be air dried or dried with a towel?

A: Hi Mary, 

Thanks for the question. Knowing how to wash your dishes safely and properly is important to maintaining health and hygiene.  

When handwashing dishes, many people think that hot water is necessary to kill bacteria. However, the water temperature needed to kill bacteria would be much too hot for our hands to handle. With that in mind, I recommend washing your dishes with warm water and dish soap. Warm water helps loosen residual food left on the dishes, leads to more effective cleaning since the food bacteria would use to survive is washed away, and is gentler on the hands! 

One important part of the dishwashing process that people often forget about is their sponges. Sponges absorb water and can have food stuck in them. As a result, bacteria can grow extensively in them. Replace your sponge every two weeks and wash your sponge after every use. There are also ways to sanitize your sponge/scrubber that you can look into! For instance, microwaving sponges kills 99.99999 percent of bacteria present on them, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). You can learn more here.

For drying, I would recommend air-drying your dishes. Just ensure that water is draining from your rack. Lingering moisture will allow bacteria to grow. Drying your dishes with a towel would be fine as well, as long as you’re using a clean towel. However, if your towel has been used, even minimally, towel drying can cause cross-contamination and spread bacteria and other pathogens, like fungi, around your dishes. So, make sure you have different towels for drying dishes and for hands! 

Please feel free to reach out to me with any other questions or concerns! 

For more.

Handling + Cleaning
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