Food safety is important for everyone. But it can be particularly important to those diagnosed with diabetes.

If  you are a person with diabetes, you are not alone — millions in the US take daily medications or directly inject insulin to control the disease and its effects on one’s organs and functioning body systems.

November is National Diabetes Month, and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reminding the public to practice safety in the handling of foods and cooking of meals to help guard against infections and pathogens that can lead to a foodborne illness (often called food poisoning).

Consuming dangerous foodborne bacteria will usually cause illness within 1 to 3 days. However, sickness can also occur within 20 minutes or up to 6 weeks later.

Symptoms of foodborne illness include: vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and flu-like symptoms (such as fever, headache, and body ache).

When persons with diabetes contract a foodborne illness, they are more likely to have a lengthier illness, undergo hospitalization, or even die. This increased risk is why food choices and safe food handling are critical in managing this chronic disease. 

Some foods are more risky for people with diabetes because they are more likely to contain harmful bacteria or viruses. In general, these foods fall into two categories:

1. Uncooked fresh fruits and vegetables.

2. Some animal products, such as unpasteurized (raw) milk; soft cheeses made with raw milk; raw or undercooked eggs, meat, poultry, fish and shellfish; luncheon meats; improperly reheated hot dogs; and salads prepared in a store or food establishment containing animal products such as seafood, ham, or chicken.

Anyone who is diabetic or who prepares food for people with diabetes should also carefully follow these steps:

CLEAN: Wash hands and surfaces often. Bacteria can be spread throughout the kitchen and get onto hands, cutting boards, utensils, counter tops, and food.

SEPARATE: Keep raw meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.

COOK to the right temperatures. Use a food thermometer to ensure meat, poultry, seafood, and egg products are cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy any harmful bacteria.

CHILL foods promptly. Cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria. Use an appliance thermometer to be sure the refrigerator temperature is 40 degrees F or below and the freezer temperature is 0 degrees F or below.

If you think that you or a family member has a foodborne illness, contact your healthcare provider immediately. Also, report the suspected foodborne illness to FDA in either of these ways:

Contact the Consumer Complaint Coordinator in your area. Locate a coordinator here: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/ReportaProblem/ConsumerComplaintCoordinators

Contact MedWatch, FDA's Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program:

By Phone: 1-800-FDA-1088

Online: File a voluntary report at http://www.fda.gov/medwatc

The FDA provides a booklet regarding food safety and the dangers of foodborne illness. It can be found online at: https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/UCM312796.pdf

For more information, visit the FDA website at: www.fda.gov.

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