The fall season calls for tailgates, backyard barbecues and picnics in the park. But these festive occasions can also set the stage for food poisoning, especially if you have an autoimmune disease. Here’s how to stay safe.
“Bacteria breed faster in warm temperatures,” says Ben Chapman, PhD, an assistant professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. “And there’s a greater risk for contamination when you prep and eat food outside.”
People with autoimmune forms of arthritis may be particularly susceptible. Their disease and some medications, including disease-modifying drugs and corticosteroids, can weaken the immune system, making it harder to fight off harmful bacteria.
Food poisoning can extend beyond the obvious misery of stomach problems even if you don’t have an autoimmune form of arthritis. “In some people, an infection from the bacterium salmonella sets off a condition called reactive arthritis,” says Christopher R. Morris, MD, a rheumatologist with Arthritis Associates in Kingsport, Tenn. This illness (formerly known as Reiter’s syndrome) can last from a few weeks to several years, and causes rashes, swollen eyes and painful joints.
You don’t have to forgo the pleasures of grilling outside to protect your joints, just be extra cautious when handling food. Keep it in the cooler until it hits the grill or your plateand make sure your meat is cooked all the way through by using a meat thermometer in the thickest parts.
Steaks and chops should be cooked to 145 degrees.
Burgers and other ground meat should be cooked to 160 degrees.
Poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees.