According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, every year an estimated 48 million Americans contract foodborne illness such as E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella. Of this number, an estimated 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases.
Anyone can contract a foodborne illness, but immune compromised individuals, the elderly, young children and pregnant women are more susceptible and likely to have more serious illnesses from foodborne diseases. Considering the risk of foodborne diseases, it is important to be aware of measures that one can take to minimize the risk of contracting foodborne illnesses, whether eating at home or out. To this end, there are at least five relatively easy steps that people can take to prevent food poisoning.
- The first is cleanliness. Bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses can survive in many places including utensils, cutting boards, your own hands etc. These bacterial can be transferred easily to foods which in turn can lead to food poisoning. Luckily, most bacteria that lead to foodborne illnesses can be eliminated through appropriate cleaning. Washing your hands, surfaces, utensils etc., before, during and after food preparation with soap and hot water is one way of preventing food poisoning.
- Secondly, you should always separate ready-to-eat-foods from raw meats, poultry, seafood, and eggs. This includes separating these items from your shopping cart, refrigerator and using different cooking utensils. This helps prevent cross-contamination as raw meat, poultry or seafood may harbor foodborne illness causing bacteria which may drip onto ready-to-eat foods if not separated.
- Thirdly, it is crucial to wash your fruits and vegetables with running water and no soap before consumption and/or cooking. Your fresh produce should be dried with a paper towel after washing. This helps remove harmful bacteria from the surface of your fresh produce. Do not wash meat, poultry, or eggs, as this can spread bacteria.
- Fourthly, you should always cook food to the right internal temperature, which is when the internal temperature gets high enough to kill gems that can cause food poisoning. The best way to tell if food is safely cooked is to use a food thermometer. See the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Education website for a chart with detailed list of temperatures and foods: https://www.foodsafety.gov/food-safety-charts/safe-minimum-internal-temperatures
- Lastly, you must refrigerate your foods promptly as foodborne illness causing bacteria can multiply rapidly in roof temperature. Foods that require refrigeration include meat, dairy, seafood, eggs, freshly prepared foods, and anything that is labeled as requiring refrigeration after opening.