People with Diabetes
More than 23 million American have diabetes today, exposing them to a heightened risk of foodborne illness.
Diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar levels. There are two main types: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 results from destruction of cells in the pancreas. These cells normally produce insulin. (Insulin is a body hormone that helps the body use sugar. Sugar comes not only from high-sugar foods, but also from the breakdown of starches in digestion.)
In Type 2, the body is not using insulin properly, which leads to high blood sugar levels. This is by far the most common type of diabetes—in all, about 90-95% of cases. (For information about these and other types of diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association website: www.diabetes.org.)
Diabetes and Foodborne Illness Risk
What’s the connection between blood sugar and food safety? Over time, diabetes can gradually damage body organs and systems, making it harder to resist foodborne illness. For example, food may spend more time in the gastrointestinal tract, giving bacteria such as Salmonella more opportunity to enter the body. Diabetes can weaken the immune system, too. The stronger the immune system, the more the body fights off potential foodborne illness.
With these facts in mind, the US Department of Agriculture advises anyone with diabetes to "make safe food handling a lifelong commitment to minimize the risk of foodborne illness."
One way to do this is to focus on food categories. Certain foods offer the potential for bacteria and viruses to grow and cause foodborne illness, and these same foods are often involved in foodborne illness. We need these foods for health and nutrition, but we also need to pay special attention to handling them to ensure food safety. Here’s the list:
- Meat, poultry, and fish, such as undercooked ground beef, chicken, or seafood
- Dairy products—especially unpasteurized milk or cheeses made from unpasteurized milk; unpasteurized eggs or foods prepared from unpasteurized eggs
- Fresh produce, which has been increasingly involved in foodborne illness over recent years.
Food Safety Tips for Anyone with Diabetes
What can you do? Here are some ideas:
- Make food-safe choices. This means avoiding foods that pose the greatest danger—milk, cheese, juices, or eggs that are not pasteurized. In each of these foods, the pasteurization process eliminates the risk of dangerous bacteria like Salmonella, Listeria, or E. coli.
- Choose pasteurized eggs to remove one of the highest-risk foods. (Salmonella enteritidis is the top cause of bacterial foodborne illness, and eggs are the top source.)
- When shopping for milk, cheese, juice, and eggs, check food labels for the word "pasteurized".
- Avoid other high-risk food such as raw seafood in sushi, refrigerated smoked fish, and undercooked burgers.
- Follow the basic four food-safe practices—Clean (wash your hands and kitchen surfaces), Separate (keep cooked or ready-to-eat foods apart from raw foods), Cook (cook animal foods such as meat, poultry, and shellfish thoroughly to destroy germs), and Chill (keep cold foods cold and refrigerate leftovers right away).
For details about cooking temperatures and more food-safe tips, see Food Safety for People with Diabetes (US Department of Agriculture).
Egg Safety Tips
Here are more egg safety tips:
- For recipes that call for eggs that are raw or undercooked when the dish is served—Caesar salad dressing and homemade ice cream, for example—use eggs that have been treated to destroy Salmonella by pasteurization. (Recommended by the US Dept. of Agriculture)
- When consuming raw eggs, use pasteurized eggs—the Safest Choice™.
- When you eat eggs or egg dishes in a restaurant, ask if the food is made with pasteurized eggs.
Anyone with diabetes can benefit from taking extra steps to protect personal health. "Eggstra" attention to safe food practices can make a difference.