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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
August 19, 2003

Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.

For Further Information Contact:
Donna Leusner
(609) 984-7160

Department of Health and Senior Services Issues Health Advisory on
Prevention of Food-Borne Illnesses


Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. reminds New Jerseyans affected by recent power outages about prevention of food-borne illnesses.

Approximately 76 million Americans get sick, more than 320,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 die each year from food borne illnesses, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Food borne illnesses can cause fever, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and dehydration. In some cases, they can cause more serious health problems, even death.

The Department offers the following food safety guidelines to reduce the risk of food borne illnesses:

Always keep meat, poultry, fish and eggs refrigerated at or below 40 F and frozen food at or below 0 F. During a power outage, keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. A sealed refrigerator can keep food cold safely for about 4 hours if it is unopened. A full, closed freezer will hold its temperature for approximately 48 hours, 24 hours if it is half full.

Have a supply of items on hand that dont require refrigeration and can be eaten cold or heated on an outdoor grill. Stock ready-to-use food, boxed or canned milk, baby formula, water, canned goods and pet food.

Use coolers to keep food cold if the power goes out.

Keep a non-electric food thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer.

Besides being prepared for power outages, New Jersey residents should be aware of general food safety tips to reduce the risk of food-borne diseases.

The Department of Health and Senior Services offers these suggestions for cooking and eating outdoors:

  • Be especially careful with foods made with raw eggs, partially cooked eggs or mayonnaise such as potato salad, macaroni salad, and chicken or tuna salad. These foods should be refrigerated as much as possible because of the risk of salmonella.
  • Discard any leftovers left outside for more than an hour.
  • Wash hands with soap and water after handling raw meats to prevent contamination of ready-to-eat foods that will not be cooked, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Clean all utensils and cutting surfaces to avoid contamination from raw meat and other foods.
  • When cooking meats or chicken, use a food thermometer to ensure they are cooked well enough to kill bacteria that could cause illness. Ground meat should be cooked until it reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit; chicken should be cooked to 170 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Place cooked meats on a clean platter, rather than back on the one that held the raw meat.
  • Report suspected food borne illnesses to your local health department or state health department. Such calls can help public health officials detect outbreaks of illness, so that their spread can be limited and the outbreak ended. Contact NJDHSS during business hours at (609) 588-7500; after hours, call (609) 392-2020.

Dr. Lacy advises all New Jerseyans to use common sense and err on the side of safety. If you are not sure whether food has been maintained properly or cooked appropriately, dont consume it. When in doubt, throw it out.

For more information on summer food safety, visit the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site,, or the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service web site at

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