How to Avoid Food Poisoning!

It may seem like common sense to eat only fresh produce, to wash foods thoroughly and use separate cutting boards for fruits / vegetables and meats. But that’s not the case!! We learned in this CNN article from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that “nearly 48 million people contract some form of food poisoning last year”, Salmonella was the top food-borne illness. With that, chicken and ground meat were on the top of the “risky meat” list. You may think food poisoning only occurs with meats, but “produces can be a source of food poisoning. Cantaloupes, spinach, spring mixed salad and mangoes have all been linked to outbreaks.” 1598075_orig

How can this be, you make ask?

Well, according to Dr. Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases, food safety standards can be tarnished before the products ever reach the consumer. From the slaughterhouse to the fields to the grocery store carrying the produces.

What’s a consumer to do, you may ask?

There are 4 areas detailed out by Dr. Robert Tauxe that consumers can do to prevent food poisoning from the grocery store to at-home storage.

1. At the store – “Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood purchases from other food products to prevent cross-contamination. The USDA recommends placing these types of foods in plastic bags and also placing these purchases in separate shopping bags at checkout.”

2. Storage – “Package meat products in leak-proof containers can help reduce cross-contamination. When you get home, storing raw meats in a plastic bag or container to prevent any juices from dripping on other foods is also important. Use an appliance thermometer to check the temperature inside the fridge; it should be 40 degrees or lower, and the freezer should be 0 degrees or lower.

3. Food preparation – Always, always start with clean hands and make sure those hands stay clean throughout your cooking! “Wash with soap and water for 20 seconds (sing “Happy Birthday” twice) before and after handling food — including other activities, such as changing diapers or using the bathroom.” One should use separate cutting boards for fruits and vegetables and raw meat to avoid cross-contamination. “Wash fruits and vegetables under running water. Scrubbing melons and cucumbers with a clean brush is recommended, never use soap! Use hot, soapy water to clean utensils and cutting boards after preparing foods; use hot, soapy water and paper towels or clean towels to clean work surfaces.” When cooking meat, an ideal temperature should be reached in order to kill bacteria such as E. Coli and Salmonella. A meat thermometer is recommended when cooking any piece of meat, “ground beef, lamb and poultry should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit; whole chickens, turkeys and poultry parts to 165 degrees; and whole cuts of meat-like steaks, chops and roasts to 145 degrees, followed by three minutes of rest time before carving or eating.”

4. Storing leftovers – Any leftovers should go into the fridge or freezer within two hours of cooking, no exceptions!!

Did you learn anything new? We think food poisoning cases happen not because we don’t know any better, but rather, we get used to our ways and become too lazy to follow through these food safety practices.

Do you agree?