ORVALLIS - Foodborne illness is not an equal opportunity deal. That is, it doesn't treat everyone the same. Some people get sick from eating tainted food, others don't. Some people experience a brief bout of nausea and diarrhea, others end up in the hospital.

"Food poisoning, like life, just isn't fair," said Carolyn Raab, Oregon State University Extension foods and nutrition specialist. "And people with weak immune systems are the ones who must bear the unfairness. They are more susceptible to foodborne illness and they're more likely to have serious complications as a result."

These groups are at higher risk because their immune systems are weak: pregnant women and their fetuses; infants and young children; older adults; people with diseases such as cancer, AIDS and diabetes.

If you're preparing food for susceptible people, it pays to handle it safely, Raab said. She encourages the following food handling practices in order to reduce the risk of food poisoning:

- Keep hands, equipment, and work surfaces clean to prevent contamination of food with bacteria.

- Wash fruits and vegetables with water before eating them.

- Cook meat, poultry, fish and eggs thoroughly to destroy bacteria.

- Use pasteurized dairy products.

- Keep hot foods hot (above 140 degrees) and cold foods cold (refrigerated) to prevent growth of bacteria that could contaminate food after cooking.

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Carolyn Raab, 541-737-1019