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IT’S a go-to summer treat, but an ice cream could leave you with more than you bargained for.
When you think of food poisoning, no doubt your first thought is under cooked meat from a BBQ or food that’s on the turn.
But it turns out ice cream could be one of the worst offending foods, experts have warned.
Amreen Bashir, a lecturer in biomedical sciences at Aston University in Birmingham, said any food taken on a picnic poses a food poisoning risk.
“During the summer, more people cook outside at picnics and barbecues, removing the safety a kitchen provides – the sink to wash your hands in, the sterilised counter tops to prepare food on, the thermostat-controlled cooking and refrigeration to kill bacteria,” she wrote for The Conversation.
“The usual bacterial suspects include campylobacter, salmonella, E. coli and listeria, all of which thrive in the summer’s warmer temperatures, causing spikes in the number of food poisoning cases reported.”
In the UK around a million people are struck down with food-borne illnesses every year.
So what does this mean for ice cream?
The tasty treat poses a danger when it has melted and then been re-frozen, something that’s bound to happen in the warmer weather.
“Aside from the well known risks of diabetes and obesity, ice cream really does have the potential to make you very sick,” Bashir said.
“This often happens when it is taken from the freezer, left out to thaw and then returned to the freezer before being taken out again to eat later.
“Ice cream melts fairly rapidly at room temperature and the milky, sugary, liquid concoction is a perfect petri dish for bacteria like listeria, essentially the second time you dig into the tub.
“Your best defence from a brain freeze-stomach ache combo is to avoid leaving the tub out and to put it back in the freezer once you’ve scooped out the amount you want.
“Double dipping with a dirty spoon is also not only inconsiderate, it’s an invitation to every nasty bug nearby.”
In 2015 five people were hospitalised and three died after eating ice cream that had been contaminated by listeria in Topeka, Kansas.
“Such cases are rare and were through no fault of the consumers,” Bashir explained.
“Food manufacturers have checks and strategies to ensure the safety of ingredients, but even the best have recalled products that were contaminated at their outset.”
The the Kansas case, tubs of ice cream from Blue Bell Creamery were recalled after they were found to have levels of small levels of bacteria in them.
The levels were actually lower than the maximum permitted value for frozen desserts in the UK, but as people became ill it was safest to take the product off the shelves.
Ice cream isn’t the only frozen food to be linked to listeria outbreaks.
Earlier this month nine people across Europe died from listeriosis after eating frozen sweetcorn.
Dozens of Brits have fallen ill, while two have lost their lives, officials confirmed.
And supermarkets across the country, including Tesco, Lidl, Aldi and Iceland, are pulling bags of their own-brand frozen veg from the shelves for fear they could contain listeria.
A Sun investigation also revealed confusing instructions on supermarket frozen veggie packets could be putting shoppers at risk of life-threatening bugs; because they aren’t clear on how the food should be eaten.
Listeriosis is a rare infection caused by the bacteria called listeria. In most cases it causes a fever, aches and pains, vomiting and diarrhoea but in vulnerable people, such as the elderly, it can be fatal.
Dr Lisa Ackerley, aka the Hygiene Doctor, said the best way to protect your family is to always follow the cooking instructions on the packet and to store food correctly in your freezer.
“Use freezer clips to keep contents in bags so they don’t spill,” she told The Sun.
“Read the labels and don’t use anything that is not ready-to-eat unless you cook it thoroughly first.”
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