No one ever sits down to a meal thinking they’re going to get food poisoning, but it happens to approximately 48 million Americans every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And, as you will know if you were unfortunate enough to ever be one of them, it’s no minor thing.

“We have to take foodborne illness seriously,” says Martin Bucknavage, senior food safety extension associate at the Penn State Department of Food Science in University Park, Pennsylvania. “When somebody does become ill from food poisoning, it can be two to three days of severe vomiting and diarrhea, and you may have ongoing symptoms and malaise for a number of days after that.” In rare cases —about 3,000 a year —foodborne illness can even be fatal.

Warm weather and holidays can be especially problematic times because the temperature is right for the pathogens that cause foodborne illnesses to thrive, and food is often left unrefrigerated for several hours, says Caroline West Passerrello, MS, RDN, LDN, a community coordinator and instructor at the University of Pittsburgh and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The good news, says Bucknavage, is that there is a lot consumers can do to protect themselves against foodborne illnesses. Simply by following some basic safety guidelines, which mostly involve properly cleaning cooking and prep surfaces, washing your hands often, and cooking foods to the correct temperatures, can significantly lower your risk for food poisoning.

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