Wildlife and Food Poisoning

Asked January 28, 2013, 11:06 AM EST

Do bears pose a danger to huamn related food poisoning when damaging farm crops?


1 Response

Most folks are more concerned about direct interaction with bears rather than potential for food poisoning. The Oregon Devision of wildlife has a good on-line publication on living with bears at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/black_bears.asp.

Bear scat can carry pathogens just like most any animal, so you should exhibit care if cleaning them up in an area. Wildlife feces can be a source of E. coli or salmonella as well as other pathogens so try to keep wildlife (and domestic animals and pets) out of the garden areas to the extent you can. If you feel there might have been potential for contamination, use good practices after harvest to minimize the potential for illness.

Food handling and preparation practices are the last line of defense for preventing infection from E. coli O157:H7 and other foodborne pathogens. The following actions can help ensure the safety of the food you serve. They are especially important if you or those you are serving are at risk for foodborne illness. The groups at highest risk include pregnant women and infants, children, the elderly and immuno-compromised individuals.

  • Wash hands thoroughly before working with food and after using the toilet, changing diapers, handling animals or helping people who have diarrhea.
  • Thoroughly wash raw fruits and vegetables just before preparing or eating them. This not only helps remove dirt, bacteria and stubborn garden pests, but it also helps remove residual pesticides. Separate and individually rinse the leaves of spinach and lettuce. Peel potatoes, carrots, yams and other root vegetables, or clean them well with a firm scrub brush under lukewarm running water. Pat dry with paper towels.
  • Clean and sanitize cutting boards, utensils and surface areas used to prepare any raw food before using them to prepare another product, especially if that food will be eaten raw. Use 3/4 teaspoon of chlorine bleach per quart.
  • Avoid cross-contamination between raw and cooked foods. Store fresh meat below produce in the refrigerator. Never place cooked meat on an unwashed plate that held raw meat.
  • Cook ground meats thoroughly to 160 degrees F. Check the internal temperature with a thermometer.
  • Don’t drink raw milk. Also, avoid unpasteurized juices or ciders.
  • Use only safe, treated water.
  • Refrigerate leftovers promptly.

Rinsing some produce, such as leafy greens, with a vinegar solution (1/2 cup distilled white vinegar per 2 cups water) followed by a clean water rinse has been shown to reduce bacterial contamination but may affect the taste.