A guest post from Emily Tolbert, BS – from the FMH Wellness Center
Did you know that this year, 76 MILLION cases of food borne illnesses will occur? Of those 76 million cases, more than 325,000 people will be hospitalized and about 5,000 deaths will occur. So how can we protect ourselves from Salmonella, E.coli, Lysteria and other food borne pathogens?
To be food safe, remember these 4 words: CLEAN, SEAPRATE, COOK, CHILL
Cleaning is the first step to being food safe. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm, soapy water before and after handling food. Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next food. Choose paper towels over sponges (the sponges quickly turn into little bacteria factories). Try to clean out your refrigerator once a week and throw away anything that looks suspicious or is past its expiration date. When in doubt, throw it out!
Separating your food begins in the grocery store. The goal is always to avoid cross-contamination: the transfer of harmful bacteria to food from other foods or surfaces. Separate eggs, meats and seafood in your grocery shopping cart, grocery bags and also in your refrigerator. Designate a separate cutting board for meats and seafood. Cutting boards harbor bacteria in the grooves your knife makes in the surface. NEVER place cooked food on a surface that had previously touched raw food. Always wash utensils between uses and use separate utensils for each dish.
While cooking, remember your best friend, a food thermometer. Food is safe to eat when it reaches the proper internal temperature. “Doneness” is a term used to describe when a food is cooked to a desired state and indicates the sensory aspects of foods such as texture, appearance and juiciness. Color and texture indicators are unreliable, so use a food thermometer to make sure food is safe to eat. Leftovers should be heated thoroughly to 165°F and leftover sauces and gravies should be brought to a boil before serving.
Chilling food is the next step and should be done right away, despite the belief that food should cool before being stored in the refrigerator. Divide leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator. Air needs to circulate through the fridge in order to keep the air temperature cold, so try not to over-stuff your refrigerator. Your refrigerator temperature should be set to 40°F and the freezer temperature should be set at 0°F or below.
There are many great resources out there to help you learn to be a food safety expert! Check out these sources for more information about food safety and BE FOOD SAFE!