Luciano Pavarotti said it best: “One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Enjoy your food, but be sure to follow these food safety tips in order to avoid foodborne sickness.
Prevention Tips and Techniques
Keep your space—and stomach—clean. Maintain a clean and orderly kitchen.
Practice smart shopping:
- Purchase non-perishable items first.
- Never choose packaging that is torn, dented, leaking, rusted, bulging, or otherwise damaged.
- Check expiration dates and buy fresh products.
- Also note the “best before” label.
- Ask for information concerning unpackaged foods.
Be alert for local, national, and international food recalls or alerts.
Ensure safe storage:
- Follow storage and cooking instructions as outlined on the label.
- Set the correct temperature for your fridge (40 degrees F, or less) and freezer (0 degrees F, or less)
- Cook (or freeze) fresh meat or fish within 2 days; beef, lamb, pork, and veal can last up to 5 days.
- Preserve meat and poultry by wrapping it securely; you’ll also prevent the juices from leaking and contaminating other foods.
- High-acid canned food (tomatoes, pineapple) can safely last for approximately 12-18 months on your pantry shelf.
- Low-acid canned food (fish, vegetables, meat) can keep up to 5 years, if in good condition and in a suitably dry and cool location.
Safely Handle Food
Always wash your hands and, if needed, the food in question (even if it looks clean!).
- Use clean water to rinse of fruits and vegetables which don’t need peeled.
- Wash each lettuce leaf and grape pod individually.
- Use soap and water for those which will be peeled.
- Always wash all surfaces, utensils, and cutting boards that came in contact with raw meat and fish.
Keep sinks and counters clean, as clean as possible at all times. Beware cross-contamination. Keep raw and cooked foods apart.
Thoroughly cook your food. Undercooked food is a haven for germs and bad bacteria; ensure your food is hot all the way through with a food thermometer that can measure that internal temperature at the thickest part.
- Beef and pork should be cooked to at least 160 degrees F;
- Ensure that the meat has lost its pink hues (exteriorly and interiorly);
- Poultry at 180+ degrees;
- Look for clear juices before serving;
- Ground beef, lamb, veal, and pork at 160+ degrees;
- Fish should be cooked until they flake (but not crumble); shrimp until they turn opaquely pink; oysters until they become plump.
Avoid raw meat and all raw seafood.
Put the fridge to good use:
- Keep marinated meats (always in a covered dish!) and all perishable leftovers in the refrigerator (microorganisms won’t have a chance to multiply).
- To cool faster, divide large portions into smaller sections.
- Don’t leave perishable food out for more than two hours (or, if it’s really hot, an hour at most).
- Try to consume leftovers within 4 days.
Thaw thoughtfully with these food safety tips:
- The fridge offers the safest (but slowest) means of thawing.
- Meats in particular should always be thawed in the fridge.
- Submerge your food in cold water for quicker thawing; be sure to change the water every half hour, and start cooking immediately when the food has been thawed.
- Microwave thawing is fast but not as safe or healthy for your food; at least, be sure to cook immediately after thawing.
Maintain the right temperature for your food; serve or maintain hot food at or below 140 degrees F, and cold food at or below 40 degrees F.
Eight foods account for 90% of all food-allergic reactions Milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (e.g., walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans), wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish. (4)
Fooborne Illness Causes 5,000 Deaths Per Year Approximately 76 million cases of foodborne illness are reported in the United States annually, resulting in an average of 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths. (6)
Most Schools Don’t Implement Food Safety Programs
32% of states required that districts or schools implement food safety practices school wide. (7)
- Keep it clean. Keep your hands, food, cooking utensils, and kitchen surfaces washed, clean, and orderly.
- Separate the raw from the cooked to avoid cross-contamination.
- Always cook food at or above the recommended temperature.
- Refrigerate leftovers promptly, and never leave perishable food exposed for more than two hours.
Food Allergies and Intolerances
A food allergy is an adverse food reaction by the body’s immune system. Common food allergens: dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, and fish. S
igns and symptoms of food allergies:
- Itching, rash, hives
- Swelling, especially around face and of throat
- Respiratory difficulty, congestion, breathlessness
- Stomach pain, queasiness, vomiting, diarrhea
- Vertigo, fainting
- Inform others of your allergy with a medical alert bracelet/necklace
- Carry an auto-injector device with epinephrine (adrenaline)
- Get medical help immediately
Save the children:
- Ensure the school knows about the allergy and what to do in case of a food allergy attack.
- Ensure your child understand allergens, how to read labels and stay away from certain ingredients, and what to do in an emergency.
- Prepare the child (and school) with equipment and resources (EpiPen) to react if something like that occurs, and to seek immediate medical assistance.
- Stock up with smart, safe snacks.
Food intolerance is an abnormal response that doesn’t involve the immune system, and is less dangerous than a food allergy.
How to Prevent Food Poisoning
Cook meat and seafood thoroughly to destroy bad bacteria.
Be aware of potential toxins (mercury, PCBs, pesticides) in certain seafood (shellfish, raw oysters, tuna, shark), which can be particularly harmful to children and embryos.
Handle eggs with care; keep fresh eggs refrigerated and cook until yolks are firm.
Ensure that your dairy products have been pasteurized, a process which eliminates dangerous bacteria.
Thoroughly wash and (if desired) peel fresh produce, which may be contaminated further from soil or water.
Handle baby food with extra care; the immune systems of infants and little kids aren’t fully developed and thus are far more vulnerable than are adults’.
- Always check the packaging (ensure the safety button hasn’t been popped open or is chipped).
- Never “double dip”, share utensils, or leave baby food out at room temperature for more than a couple of hours
- Opened baby food can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Handle pet food carefully as well, as it may also contain harmful toxins or bacteria, and can promote foodborne illnesses affecting both man and beast.
—- Food Safety Tips: Sources —-
(1) Facts and statistics, page 3 by mmc.org
(2) Facts and statistics, page 2 by mmc.org
(3) Food Allergy Facts and Statistics for the U.S., page 4 by foodallergy.org
(4) Food Allergy Facts and Statistics for the U.S., page 1 by foodallergy.org
(5) National Enteric Disease Surveillance:Salmonella Surveillance Overview, page 1 by cdc.gov
(6) Food Safety by cdc.gov
(7) Food Safety, page 1 by cdc.gov
(8) Food Safety Science White Paper, page 2 by usda.gov
(9) Food Safety Statistics Index by dpc.senate.gov