About 76 million cases of food-borne illness occur in the United States each year, and usually they only cause a couple of days’ distress. But as we’ve seen in South Carolina with the death of 58-yr-old James Arledge due to salmonella, the "bugs" that cause food poisoning can send people to the hospital — and sometimes prove fatal.

At restaurants, twice-a-year inspections aim to spot sloppy or hazardous conditions. You can look up a restaurant’s score at www.scdhec.gov. But also be vigilant about food-handling practices you observe, said Gary Elliott, environmental health manager for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Simply cooking food thoroughly can eradicate some of the most common food-poisoning culprits, including salmonella and e. coli bacteria. For most foods, that means cooking to 165 degrees, including foods that are being reheated. Careful hand-washing is another tactic to avoid contamination. There are more than 250 food-borne ailments, many caused by bacteria or viruses people spread with their hands.