Detective FoodSafe™ loves to get to the bottom of a foodborne illness outbreak. She investigates every detail of food handling and preparation that can lead to someone becoming sick from the food they eat.
This is her favorite time of the year because she can pass along a few tips to keep you and your family safe from bacteria lurking in your kitchen or local restaurant.
Foodborne illness is preventable with some food safety precautions!
All along the way from purchasing, storing and preparing food, it can be susceptible to contamination from pathogens or microbes that could make you sick or even be deadly.
Food Safety in the Headlines
There have been many examples recently of foodborne illness from foods including ice cream, cucumbers, cilantro and nuts.
The news headlines are scary and can make us leery of food manufacturers but we can also be sickened by things happening in our own kitchen.
The theme for this year’s Food Safety Month campaign is Let It Flow. How food moves through the food chain and especially how it is handled in restaurants we usually enjoy is a focus of this year’s awareness program.
Foods that have not been held at the correct temperature become victims of temperature abuse.
Cold foods that are not cold or hot foods that are not hot can put your family at risk of foodborne illness.
When food enters the temperature danger zone, pathogens such as bacteria and viruses can multiply in our foods causing illness.
Microbes can infect us from several different avenues including contaminated drinking water, raw poultry and eggs, temperature abuse, undercooking foods, poor handwashing, raw milk or unpasteurized juice, fish toxin, home canning, unsafe food handling, improper thawing, or handling by infected person.
Buying and Storing Food
When you bring food home from your retailer — supermarket, superstore, farmer’s market or coop, it is important to handle it properly to prevent the growth of contaminants. Improper handling can lead to temperature abuse.
- Buy frozen foods that are solid and have not begun to thaw in the store. Check foods such as milk, dairy and eggs to be sure they are kept cold in the store. Select only those that are kept at the proper temperature.
- Refrigerate or freeze any food promptly. Buy it and bring it home instead of doing other errands with perishable foods in the car. You can use a cooler or insulated shopping bag to transport food but it should still be brought home and stored quickly.
- Don’t overfill your refrigerator or freezer or block air circulation with shelf liners. Your unit will have a hard time maintaining a proper uniform internal temperature when the air can’t circulate putting your food at danger of temperature abuse. Avoid opening the refrigerator or freezer unnecessarily so that the temperature is not maintained consistently.
- Have a thermometer inside your refrigerator, freezer and oven to be sure the correct temperatures are maintained. It should be in the warmest part of a cold appliance and the coldest part of a hot appliance. Check the temperature using these internal thermometers regularly to be sure the appliance is holding temperature in the safe zone. Use a food thermometer to be sure that food is thoroughly cooked to the proper temperature for bacteria to be destroyed.
When we have frozen food including meats or leftovers, it is important to thaw them properly in order to keep them out of the temperature danger zone.
- Thaw food in the refrigerator whenever possible.
- Thaw in a microwave if the food will be cooked immediately afterward.
- You can thaw the food as part of the cooking process allowing for additional cooking time at correct temperatures to insure proper internal temperatures are reached.
- Submerge foods under running water. The water should be less than 70 degrees F.
- Never thaw on the counter.
Washing hands, surfaces, utensils and cutting boards to keep them free from bacteria that can cause foodborne illness is important. We can get accustomed to our own kitchens and overlook these tips especially washing hands before touching faucet, door knobs and refrigerator door handles. This can spread unwanted bacteria known as cross contamination without our knowing it.
- Avoid bare hand contact between raw and cooked foods without proper hand washing.
- Wash produce before preparation including melons before they are cut.
- Read expiration dates, rotate your food to avoid having food expire before it can be used. Throw away foods that have passed their expiration dates.
- Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw and cooked products and always use a clean serving plate. Separate ready to eat foods from raw when preparing the meal. Avoid cross contamination.
- Store leftovers within two hours of serving and reheat them to a proper internal temperature when serving again.
It is important to take a few extra minutes when handling food in our own kitchens to prevent foodborne illness from striking your family.
1 in 6 of us will be contaminated by the food or beverages we eat!
Don’t let that one be someone in your family.
Being proactive with food safety is a better idea than calling in Detective FoodSafe™ to find the source of the illness after it strikes!