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Food safety issues

Food safety is an important concern for patients with HIV infection because their immune systems have difficulty fighting off food- or water-borne disease organisms. While most people can get food poisoning or parasitic infections of the digestive tract if they drink contaminated water or do not prepare food properly, patients with HIV infection can get severely ill as a result of these diseases.

Food-borne illnesses are also much more difficult to treat in persons with AIDS or HIV infection, and may lead to malabsorption syndrome, a condition in which the body cannot absorb and make use of needed nutrients in food. The CDC and NIH have brochures with detailed instructions for patients about safety issues in purchasing and preparing foods, particularly when traveling abroad.

Basic safeguards include the following: Wash hands repeatedly in warm soapy water before and after preparing or eating food. Instant hand sanitizers should be used when away from home. Cook all meats, fish, and poultry to the well-done stage; do not eat sushi, raw oysters, or raw meat in any form. Do not use unpasteurized milk or dairy products.

Do not eat raw, soft-boiled, or ‘‘wet’’ scrambled eggs, or Caesar salad made with raw egg in the dressing. Hard-boiled or hard-scrambled eggs are safe. Rinse all fruits and vegetables carefully in clean, safe water, and clean all cutting boards and knives that touch chicken and meat with soap and hot water before using these utensils with other food items. Keep all refrigerated foods below 40 F; check expiration dates on food packaging.

Completely reheat leftovers before eating, and do not eat leftovers that have been stored in the refrigerator for longer than 3 days. Do not drink water that comes directly from lakes, streams, rivers, or springs, and ask for drinks without ice in restaurants.

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