Keeping food safe to eat is important for healthful eating. Food-borne illness also called food poisoning is caused by bacteria or other pathogens in food.
An estimated one in six Americans becomes ill annually from food poisoning resulting in many hospitalizations and some deaths. Improper handling and storage of food increase the risk of food-borne illness. Practicing food safety guidelines can prevent many cases of food poisoning. Some tips to help keep food safe include:
- Wash hands thoroughly before and after handling food or anything coming in contact with food. Bacteria live and multiply on warm, moist hands. Use soap and warm water to scrub all parts of the hands and nails for at least 20 seconds. Rinse hands thoroughly with water and dry with a clean towel.
- Keep countertops, appliances, utensils and cutting boards clean. Wash with hot soapy water and rinse with hot water before and after preparing food. These can be sanitized by applying a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Allow to air dry.
- Change dishcloths, sponges and towels often. When damp they are a great place for bacteria to grow.
- Wash fresh produce thoroughly under running water just prior to eating, cutting or cooking.
- Avoid cross-contamination which can spread bacteria. Keep raw seafood, meat and poultry separate from ready-to-eat foods in the grocery cart, in your refrigerator and when preparing at home.
- Cook seafood, meat, poultry and egg products to a safe internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria.
- Keep the refrigerator clean. Proper refrigeration slows bacteria growth. Bacteria can grow rapidly in the “danger zone” temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees F. Keep cold foods cold at 40 degrees F or below and keep hot foods hot at 140 degrees F or above. The freezer should be 0 degrees F or lower.
Becky Varner, MS RD LD
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