Even today with high sanitation standards and proper food handling procedures food-borne illness is an issue. In any sort of SHTF scenario, food-borne illness and prevention for preppers will inevitably become a major issue.
CDC estimates that each year roughly 48 million people gets sick from a food-borne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. According to some estimates, the most common food-borne illnesses are caused by norovirus and by the bacteria Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, and Campylobacter.
Imagine what those numbers would be without proper sanitation, without running water, and without refrigeration. These days we depend on best by dates and if it doesn’t get eaten in time, we just toss it out.
SPP181 Foodborne Illness and Prevention for Preppers
In this week’s show, Lisa and I not only talked about food safety and prevention, we talked about what some of these food-borne illnesses are, and how to treat them.
Safe Food Handling
The most important part of food preparation is proper sanitary conditions. This includes how you store uncooked foods, and how you prepare your meals. In a SHTF situation, this will be more difficult than it is now.
Washing Hands: This is first on the list because it is the most important. We usually pay no attention to how many things we touch each day, and we can easily carry around bacteria without even knowing about it.
Disinfectants (Bleach): Making sure your work area and utensils are disinfected is critical, and this is where bleach is your best friend. Bleach is a quick easy sanitizer and can be used all around the house, not just for cleaning your cooking area.
Bleach is inexpensive, has a long shelf life and has many useful purposes it is a must have in every preppers pantry. Bleach could literally be a lifesaver in many ways.
Cross Contamination: If you use a cutting board to process raw chicken, and then you use the same cutting board to cut up some carrots that is cross contamination. That bacteria on the chicken will be cooked and killed, but the bacteria transferred to the carrots will not.
The same applies to the utensils you use. Make sure and use different utensils for different foods, or wash and sanitize them between use.
Temperature Danger Zone: This is when your food is the most vulnerable to spoilage. The temperature danger zone is between 40° to 140°, and your food should only remain in this temperature range for 2 hours max.
As they say in the restaurant industry “keep your hot foods hot, and your cold foods cold”
Short term refrigeration
One reason why having canned foods, shelf stable foods and long term food storage is important is because we will most likely be without refrigeration. Depending on the scenario, we might have refrigeration, but we need to have alternatives.
In the first 24 hours after a power outage do not open refrigerators or freezers any more than necessary. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for approximately 4 hours. An unopened freezer will keep food frozen for approximately 24 hours.
The fuller your refrigerator or freezer is the better. The more area taken up by frozen food, the less area there is for air.
If possible, you could also use a generator for a few hours a day. There is no need to continually supply power to your refrigerator if you only open it periodically. If you have a generator, you could run it for a hour a few times a day and keep the temperature cool enough.
Keep the temperature danger zone in mind here, you will need to throw away any food items that become warmer than 41 degrees.
Long term Refrigeration
Long term refrigeration is a bigger challenge, at some point we are going to need to find some alternatives. If we have fresh vegetables, we need to keep them cool to extend their shelf life.
Zeer Pot: These are fairly basic, and are used in places where refrigeration is not available. This article explains what the process is.
Root cellar: A root cellar could be something large enough for you to walk into, or something small that requires you to dig a hole in the ground. This won’t give you “refrigerator temperatures” but it will keep your food cooler.
Water: If you live by a river or lake…dunk it. You will need a way to keep it contained (like a cage) but water temperatures are always cooler than air temperatures. In some places it could even be below 41°
Solar: If you have the solar capacity, a low wattage compact refrigerator might be an option. These would take much less energy to keep cool, but it’s up to you if it is worth it or not.
Let it Flow…
In the show we talked about some of the most common food-borne illnesses, their symptoms and how to treat them. A common theme with all of these illnesses is diarrhea. Diarrhea is your bodies way of getting rid of the bacteria. It’s important not to take anything to stop the diarrhea, but to replace fluids and electrolytes.
Here is a recipe Lisa found for replacing electrolytes…
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 cups of water (filtered or purified) or raw coconut water
- 2 tbsp. organic raw honey or organic maple syrup
- 1/8 tsp Himalayan Pink salt or Celtic sea salt (I like Himalayan better – it has 84 trace minerals)
Common Food-borne Illnesses
Here are a few of the food-borne illnesses we went over in the show…
Cause: Raw meats, poultry, eggs, milk and other dairy products, shrimp, frog legs, yeast, coconut, pasta and chocolate are most frequently involved.
Symptoms: Typical Symptoms of Salmonella infection appear 6 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food and lasts from 3 to 7 days without treatment. Symptoms of Salmonella infection range widely, and are sometimes absent altogether. The most common symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever.
Treatment: Dehydration caused by diarrhea is the most common complication. Antibiotics are not usually needed unless the infection has spread. In severe cases Amoxicillin and Ampicillin may be useful.
Cause: You get an E. coli infection by coming into contact with the feces, or stool, of humans or animals. This can happen when you drink water or eat food that has been contaminated by feces.
Symptoms: Diarrhea, which may range from mild and watery to severe and bloody, abdominal cramping, pain or tenderness, nausea and vomiting, in some people
Treatment: Rest and fluids to help prevent dehydration and fatigue. Avoid taking an anti-diarrheal medication, this slows your digestive system down, preventing your body from getting rid of the toxins. Antibiotics generally aren’t recommended because they can increase the risk of serious complications.
Cause: Listeria bacteria can be found in soil, water and animal feces. Humans typically are infected by consuming raw vegetables that have been contaminated from the soil or from contaminated manure used as fertilizer, infected animal meat, unpasteurized milk. Certain processed foods can also lead to Listeria such as soft cheeses, hot dogs and deli meats.
Symptoms: The symptoms of listeriosis include fever, muscle aches, and sometimes nausea ordiarrhea. If infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions can occur.
Treatment: An otherwise healthy person who is not pregnant typically does not need treatment. Symptoms will usually go away within a few weeks.
Cause: Cholera is an acute, diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The infection is often mild or without symptoms, but sometimes it can be severe.
A person may get cholera by drinking water or eating food contaminated with the cholera bacterium. In an epidemic, the source of the contamination is usually the feces of an infected person. The disease can spread rapidly in areas with inadequate treatment of sewage and drinking water.
In the United States, because of advanced water and sanitation systems, cholera is not a major threat…but it could become one.
Symptoms: characterized by profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps. In these people, rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours.
Treatment: While antibiotics are not a necessary part of cholera treatment, some of these drugs may reduce both the amount and duration of cholera-related diarrhea. A single dose of doxycycline (Monodox, Oracea, Vibramycin) or azithromycin (Zithromax, Zmax) may be effective.
The goal is to replace lost fluids and electrolytes using a simple rehydration solution. Without rehydration, approximately half the people with cholera die. With treatment, the number of fatalities drops to less than 1 percent.
Cause: Most of the small number of outbreaks reported annually in the U.S. are associated with inadequately processed, home-canned foods, but occasionally commercially-produced foods have been involved in outbreaks. Sausages, meat products, canned vegetables and seafood products have been vehicles for human botulism.
Symptoms: Symptoms include double vision, inability to swallow, speech difficulty, and progressive paralysis of the respiratory system
Treatment: Treating botulism requires an anti-toxin. Antibiotics are not advised for any types of botulism because they can hasten the release of the toxins.