Friday, September 11, 2015

The Down Low on Food Safety and How to Protect Yourself

As children, we can all remember mom telling us “wash your hands!” Washing our hands not only helps in preventing us from getting sick with a cold but also plays a major role in food safety and in preventing foodborne illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 6 Americans gets sick from consuming contaminated foods each year. So, practicing a few food safety techniques can help save you from many hours groaning in pain. What can you do you ask? Well, good food safety involves using techniques that include proper handling, preparation, and storage to help prevent the contamination of foods. 

Using these 4 easy steps can keep you and your family safe at home:
  1. Clean
    • Prior to preparing any food or eating, hands should be washed for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm running water. All utensils, cutting boards and surfaces you will be using need to be washed thoroughly. Fruits and vegetables can also be rinsed with water to remove any dirt or unseen bacteria that can possibly contaminate the food. Many people think they should rinse meat and poultry; however, they should not! This is because rinsing raw meat only increases the risk of cross contamination. Above all, wash anything that has been in contact with raw meat or poultry. 
  2. Separate 
    • Make sure to separate cooked meat from raw meat. Put cooked meat on a clean platter or plate to avoid cross contamination. Even cooked meat, if in contact with other raw foods can become contaminated again. Use separate plates, cutting boards and utensils for produce, raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs. Also you should keep raw items separated from others while shopping at the grocery store. 

  3. Cook
    • Be sure to cook all meat, poultry, seafood and eggs thoroughly. A food thermometer should be used to measure the internal temperature of the meat to make sure it is cooked sufficiently to kill bacteria. Many people think they can tell if a food is done simply by looking at it but there is no way to be sure it is safe without abiding by the safe minimum cooking temperature by using a food thermometer. 
Temperature (Fahrenheit)
Beef, pork, veal, lamb
Turkey, chicken
Steaks, roasts, chops
Fresh ham
Precooked ham
Cooked until yolk and white are firm
Fin fish
Leftovers and casseroles
    4.  Chill
    • After you are finished eating, items should be stored properly in air tight containers or bags and placed promptly in the refrigerator. Bacteria can grow quickly at room temperature, so refrigerate leftover foods if they are not going to be eaten within 4 hours. Frozen meats should be thawed in the refrigerator, never on the counter or in the sink. Foods that tend to spoil more quickly are fruits, vegetables, milk, eggs and meats and should be refrigerated within 2 hours. Be cautious of mixed dishes that have these food items in them such as chicken Alfredo. The milk from the Alfredo sauce is a food that spoils more quickly, so the 2-hour rule should be followed.
Bottom line
  • Everybody is at risk to become infected with a foodborne illness- especially infants, young children, older adults and pregnant woman.
  • Contaminated foods MAY NOT look, smell, or taste funny so be sure to follow the 4 food safety steps.
  • Food poisoning symptoms can develop as quickly as 30 minutes or make take up to a few days before you notice any symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and abdominal cramping. 
  • Remember 1 in 6 Americans get sick each year from consuming contaminated food. That means if we were able to reduce the incidence of foodborne illness by 10%, it would prevent 5 million Americans from getting sick each year. 
  • Know when to throw food out!

Home Food Safety. Available at: (Accessed: 2 Sept 2015).CDC and Food Safety. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: (Accessed: 2 Sept 2015). 

~Jason Klemka MS, RD, LD/N