Food safety is important and education is the first step to knowing how to handle food, prevent disease, and avoid sickness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Each year, 1 in 6 Americans get sick from eating contaminated food.” That’s fairly often!
Though food-borne illness is common, it can be prevented with food safety education. September is Food Safety Education Month and in order cook, eat, and prepare food safely, it’s important to understand how to protect yourself and others from food-borne illness.
Basic hygiene is the first step to preventing the spread of food-borne germs. Thus, when dealing with food, always remember to wash your hands before, after, and often. In addition to your hands, keeping your surfaces clean will help prevent the growth of bacteria. According to an article from EatRight.org, make sure to keep things like cutting boards, cookware, towels/dishcloths, sponges, appliances, refrigerators/freezers, microwaves, cabinet knobs and handles, and other surfaces that may interact with food directly or indirectly (via your hands), clean.
Not only is it important to keep these surfaces clean, but making sure you are cleaning them correctly is also important to recognize. According to FoodSafety.gov, you must “wash cutting boards, utensils, and counter tops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next item.” The article continues with, “As an extra precaution, you can use a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water to sanitize washed surfaces and utensils.”
In addition to keeping external surfaces clean when dealing with food, it’s important to follow rules for dealing with cleaning and cooking the food itself.
When dealing with fruits and vegetables, make sure to always thoroughly rinse (not soak) before cutting, slicing, peeling, etc. According to an article from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, make sure to “scrub foods with tough surfaces, like melons and potatoes, with a vegetable scrubber.”
When dealing with raw meat, The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA) states when thawing:
- “Refrigerator: The refrigerator allows slow, safe thawing. Make sure thawing meat and poultry juices do not drip onto other food.
- “Cold Water: For faster thawing, place food in a leak-proof plastic bag. Submerge in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook immediately after thawing.”
- “Microwave: Cook meat and poultry immediately after microwave thawing.”
In addition, it’s important to understand the correct internal temperature for cooking all types of raw meat, in order to avoid bacteria surviving in food. The USDA safety minimum temperatures for cooking meat, according to their website, include the following:
- “Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F (62.8 ºC) as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. “
- “Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160 °F (71.1 ºC) as measured with a food thermometer.”
- “Cook all poultry to an internal temperature of 165 °F (73.9 °C) as measured with a food thermometer.”
In addition to heating instructions, the USDA also provides a Cold Storage Chart with freezer and refrigerator time limits and temperatures for certain foods to keep cold. To view the entire Cold Storage Chart, click HERE.
Temperature and cleanliness are two key factors to preventing food-borne illness and spreading of bacteria when dealing with food. Making sure you and other members of your household are educated and understand food safety rules will make a big difference in preventing the common “food poisoning.”
So, let’s raise awareness this month for Food Safety Education and make an impact in our own lives and the community to handle, cook, freeze, thaw, and clean food properly to avoid the common food-borne illness.
–Emily Sanville, Digital Communications Coordinator