Food and Water Safety
Everyone should be careful to avoid bacterial and parasitic contamination when preparing food. This is especially important for people with HIV. Below are some simple kitchen rules that will help to keep meals free of harmful contaminants.
Wash hands often in warm, soapy water for 20 seconds before you begin. Wash after every step in the food preparation process.
Always wear gloves for food preparation.
Keep raw meat, chicken, fish, and eggs away from other foods.
Beware of cross-contamination. For example, don't carry the cooked meat to the table in the same dish used to carry the raw meat to the grill unless you wash it first in hot soapy water.
Do not use the same cutting board for raw meat, fish, chicken, and any other food.
Keep your refrigerator clean and cold--40 F or below. If you have a freezer it should be 0 F or colder. Use a refrigerator thermometer to check these two temperatures at least every six months. Refrigerator thermometers are cheap and several people can share the same one since you don't have to keep it in your refrigerator all the time. Wipe up spills right away, and keep shelves, sides, and doors sanitized by cleaning them with a solution that is one-part bleach to ten-parts water.
Food safety need not be limited to kitchen preparation. You can also protect yourself from tainted food by purchasing the freshest food items and avoiding others. Here are some tips for safer food buying.
When you buy meats, fish, poultry or anything for that matter, check the expiration date. Buy the products with the longest time left before expiration. If you need to get ground chuck, don't buy the pre-ground product. It is impossible to know its origin, its content, or its age. Ask the butcher in your supermarket or meat-market to grind whatever cut of meat you pick out of the cooler. Have it wrapped thoroughly in plastic and separate it from the rest of your food.
When you buy fish, check the eyes and gills of whole fish. If the eyes have a white film on them, the fish is not fresh. If the gills are a deep red the fish is probably fresh or was frozen when it was fresh.
Chickens are better if they are bought whole and then cut up by the butcher. If you don't have a butcher you might as well learn to do it yourself. Whole chickens are usually cheaper by the pound than ones that are cut up, so saving money can be an incentive for learning to be your own butcher. Chicken should be stored at 40 F or below until it is ready to be cooked. Your freezer should be set at 0 F or below if you want to keep the meat frozen for more than two or three days.
Food safety should also figure into the way you cook and serve your food.
Meat, poultry, and fish should be cooked well done at 180 F, to be on the safe side. There should be no sign of red or pink meat, and no red or pink juices. Use a meat thermometer.
Never serve anything with raw meat, raw fish, or raw eggs in it. For example, traditional eggnog recipes call for raw eggs, so don't use them. Never serve salads that have been made with mayonnaise or other dressings if they have not been refrigerated or cooled properly (40 F or less) until you eat them. Don't ignore condiments, dressings, and items like milk for coffee. Treat them with the same care as the main dishes. A little bit of spoiled milk, butter or Russian dressing can make anyone sick. Use them only if they have been chilled properly.
Another category of food store to avoid is the self-service salad bar. The age of the food, the temperature that it is held at and the personal sanitary habits of the countless people who handle the serving utensils are all unknown and potentially dangerous.
Finally, proper food storage is also a crucial component of eating heathily. The recommended food storage life chart details how long food items should be stored and under what conditions.
While all these rules may seem a bit overwhelming at first, once they are put into practice they quickly become habit. You may want first to try incorporating only some of these rules into your cooking routine. Then, as you become more comfortable with them, add the others. For more information on food saftey, The Momentum Project suggests you read Eating Defensively: Food Safety Advice for Persons with AIDS, published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services's Food and Drug Administration.
Food Safety, reprinted from "Living Well With HIV and AIDS"
www.FoodSafety.gov, Gateway to Government Food Safety Information, Consumer Advice for Persons with AIDS or Other Immune Deficiencies
The information in this section is adapted from "Should I Be Concerned About the Water I Drink," published by The National Association of People with AIDS; from the various sources listed in the text; and from Edwin Krales, Coordinator of Nutrition and Outreach, The Momentum Project.
You can take steps to make your drinking water safer and avoid the parasites that can cause diarrhea and other health problems. Cryptosporidiosis (or "crypto") is the most serious illness that can result from drinking contaminated water.
Cryptosporidiosis is caused by Cryptosporidium, a protozoan that can cause severe illness or death. People can be infected with cryptosporidium by drinking contaminated water or through exposure to the feces of infected individuals or animals. You should assume that all tap water contains Cryptosporidium.
Cryptosporidiosis is among the most common causes of diarrhea in patients with HIV/AIDS in the United States. If you think you have been infected with crypto, see your phycisian immediately. Routine stool examinations used for most parasites usually do not detect Cryptosporidium. Therefore, stool specimens should be examined using tests designed specifically for crypto.
The best way to determine if your municipal water system contains cryptosporidium is to call your local water utility and ask for the source of your drinking water, whether or not it is vulnerable to contaminants, and how the water is treated and tested.
Safe drinking water sources include:
Tap water that has been at a full and rolling boil for one minute.
Bottled water that is certified to be free of parasites or that has been subjected to one of the following: distillation, reverse osmosis, or absolute one-micron filtration. Call your local bottler or the Interanational Bottled Water Association (IBWA)--whose members meet these criteria--for information at: 1 (800)-WATER-11
Point-of-use filters for the faucet or under the sink that are certified NSF 53 for cyst removal. Be aware that filter cartridges are expensive and must be changed often. Whenever you change a filter, wear rubber gloves since all the "bugs" that the filter took out of the water are now in the cartridge. If you don't wear gloves, the "bugs" may get all over your hands, and eventually wind up in your stomach. Of course, wash the gloves in warm soapy water or throw them away after use. When you are finished, wash your hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds.
This information is not meant to panic you or cause you undue anxiety. In fact, the CDC has said that persons with HIV infection who live in large metropolitan areas with unfiltered water sources do not appear to have increased rates of Cryptosporidium infection compared to those who live in communities with other types of drinking water (CDC, unpublished data, 6/15/95).
For this and other reasons, the CDC has not recommended that all immuno-compromised persons boil or filter their drinking water or drink only bottled water. Instead, they have provided only "guidance." For people whose drinking water comes from uncontaminated ground water sources or from high-quality surface sources, the risk of getting Cryptosporidium infection from drinking water is probably extremely low. The CDC feels that a national recommendation would inappropriately target these people (CDC, unpublished data, 6/15/95).
The Momentum Project recommends that you boil, filter, or buy certified bottle water.
Cryptosporidium in Water: CDC Guidelines on How to Protect Yourself (AIDS Treatment News Issue #227, July 21, 1995).