Experts warn of foodborne illnesses ahead of holiday

November 21, 2012 3:39:55 PM PST
If you didn't know it, you would never guess what 7-year-old Maxwell has been through. His annual checkup went well Wednesday, but the boy from Dixon, Illl., will be a patient at Lurie Children's Hospital until he's 21.

Five years ago, Maxwell has significant kidney failure from E. coli food contamination.

"It was one day in his life and it changed his life forever," said Carla DeForest, Maxwell's mother.

"There was a toxic produced by this particular bacteria that caused damage to Max's blood vessels resulting in the breakdown of red blood cells and significant kidney failure requiring dialysis," said Dr. Amy Bobrowski, Lurie Children's Hospital.

"When he arrived at Children's most of his vital organs were shut down," said DeForest.

Maxwell was hospitalized for two months and had a half a dozen surgeries.

What Maxwell and his family went through was traumatic and what they have learned is that it could have been prevented.

The food safety advocacy organization Stop Foodbourne Illness recommends:

  • Washing hands before during and after food preparation to avoid cross contamination
  • Cook meats thoroughly - don't partially cook the day before
  • Refrigerate foods within two hours of serving
  • Eat leftovers within three days

"I never paid attention to that. I took all of that for granted before Max got sick," said DeForest.

"We tell everyone to wash their hands and in the food service industry, they are very cognizant of that but it is hard to be 100-percent safe. But overall it is preventable," said Dr. Bobrowski.

"I would never wish anyone to go through what we went through with max, but it definitely was a learning experience," said DeForest. This Thanksgiving, as with all meals Maxwell's mom, will make sure those preparing the food take all precautions and she urges other parents to do the same.

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