Today, Monday, 5/28/2018, Oz goes behind the scenes to investigate what may be lurking in the hot buffet items at your local grocery store. Buffets are a convenient way to grab food on the go but are they full of bacteria making you sick? Inside Edition anchor, Deborah Norville investigates with Dr. Oz. See how bacteria can flourish and watch out for these red flags:
- Look at where the tongs are lying. If the handles are lying on the food, they have contaminated the food with germs from many people’s hands.
- If food is really kept warm, bacteria cannot grow. Hot foods should be kept at an internal temperature of 140 °F or warmer. Cold foods should be kept at 40 °F or colder. If it isn’t cold enough on salads, etc., bacteria can grow rapidly. Time is not your friend. Keep in mind how long it has been sitting. Never get food that is room temperature!
- Be mindful of protein. Go low. Get the meat that is closest to the heat, not the pieces on top.
- Foods in stacks: People will tend to reach with their hands. Dig low again. Get the food that is closest to the heat or cold.
- Breads. People tend to reach for bread with their hands. You only need 18 bacteria to cause the norovirus. Avoid bread that is not wrapped.
- Lemon slices. Never get lemon slices that aren’t kept cold. 70% tested had bacteria including E-Coli.
- Use the plastic mittens if you chose to use the tongs or pick up food.
- Go at peak time-between 11:00am-1:00pm when the food is recycled. Another good time is between 6:00-8:00 pm. Never get food that has been sitting for more 4 hours. Eat it while it is hot and don’t go shopping or leaving the food sitting after you purchase it. When you get home, microwave hot foods for a few minutes to kill any bacteria. It is recommended to ask the attendant at the store when the food was cooked or prepared.
Best foods to get at a hot buffet
- Omelet station. These are made fresh, healthy, and safe. You are watching the chef and how he is handling the ingredients.
- Baked potato line. They are in foil and have not been touched, usually kept hot. You can make your own. Usually, the butter and sour cream have not been touched.
- Coffee bar. In a sterile container and cream and sugar are wrapped or in closed containers.
Documented cases from food buffet contamination
- In 2001, local Minnesota health departments noted a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 cases in Douglas and Pope County. All of the cases required hospitalization due to the severity of their infections. After investigating, epidemiologists discovered that all of the case-patients had dined at the same Chinese buffet restaurant in Alexandria, MN.
- In 2002, a large Salmonella outbreak occurred at a buffet restaurant in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. Hamburger steak with gravy, fried chicken, and ham all tested positive for the presence of Salmonella Heidelberg. Two employees were found to be infected with the same strain of Salmonella Heidelberg. Both had eaten food that had been prepared at the restaurant so it was not clear if they were the source of the outbreak or if they were victims, like the patrons.
- In 2003, multiple people, residing in several states, became ill with Shigella after their stay at a hotel in Westminster, Colorado. Several groups were affected, including hotel staff, a veterans’ group, a wedding group, and other hotel guests. The same strain of Shigella was detected among the culture-confirmed cases. The investigation determined that the illnesses were associated with eating from the breakfast buffet.
Ref. Dr. Oz Show, foodsafetynews.com
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