What a trifecta; Safety Sunday, World Food Day & Blog Action Day 2011 all happen to fall on this Sunday, with the main focus being on Food. While we have addressed the issue of preventing food poisoning in some previous articles; Picnic Safety, Refrigerated & Frozen Products (including leftovers), the life of items in the Pantry, and the ever popular Thanksgiving Turkey, we thought we would dedicate this one to simple steps one can do to prevent the majority of food borne illness. Of course when you also consider that according to the CDC, 1 in 6 people are affected by this issue each year just in the US, it almost is a no-brainer.
4 Main Causes of Poisoning
Before trying to prevent something, I have always found it helpful to know what the cause of the problem is. There are four main causes for people getting ill which are as follows; Bacteria / Viruses, Parasites, Molds, and Natural Toxins / Other Contaminants. I would dare say that most people hardly consider or worry about the first two items, and are more concerned about the latter half of the list which is interesting in a way, as the items were listed in order of the most common reasons people do get sick.
Moldy food rarely is an issue as it is generally easily visible and most individuals simply toss the food (nice chart on USDA’s site – moldy food, is it safe or not). The best way to prevent this issue is only buying as much as you will eat a few days before it may become an issue. The second method is to properly store & care for these items. Some great info & charts can be found in the Refrigerated & Pantry articles and also at FoodSafety.gov.
are also pretty rare unless you are eating puffer fish, wild berries, mushrooms, plants, etc… that you know nothing or little about. As for , while it is rare that you might get sick (unless you eat a ton of said item), these items can be hard to avoid as there generally is no outwardly visible signs. For fruits & vegetables the issues abound based on you and the exact chemicals used. Some simply can be washed off; some may require peeling, while others may be found inside the item.
The best advice is to know where your food came from, how it was handled & limiting your intake to fish and other products that may have been exposed to harmful items like mercury. Oh & just because it says organic, wild, or farm raised doesn’t automatically mean it is safe (sorry). For more information on having your own Sustainable & Home Garden I recommend you check out not only John Poole’s article but also with your Universities Local Cooperative Extension.
When one starts talking about Bacteria’s, Parasites & Viruses, there are four simple steps to help cut your chances of getting ill down; Keep it Clean, Keep them Separate, Cook it Properly, and Refrigerate Promptly… An organization called “FightBac”(short for Bacteria) has a similar program with 4 posters that cover – Clean, Contamination, Cook, & Cool.
Keep it Clean:
- Wash your hands before and after handling food (if you are stopping to do anything else – this still applies).
- Wash your hands, cutting boards, utensils, counter tops, etc… after handling & preparing proteins (meats, eggs, etc…) before you move onto other items.
- If you used a serving platter or plate to bring the raw meat out to the grill, bring it back in to be cleaned before placing the cooked meat back on it.
- Rinse & lightly scrub fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not going to be eaten to help remove pesticides, bacteria, etc… that maybe on them. Not only will this keep it from being transferred via hands, but also when you cut into them.
- Use paper towels to help clean off surfaces or wipe up spills, hand towels should really only be used drying your hands after cleaning them.
Keep them Separate:
- Cross Contamination is not good – it is as simple as that, so even though you washed the one cutting boards, a separate cutting board is ideal when dealing with meats & vegetables.
- If you have more than one type of meat you need to flip the board, grab another one, or wash it between uses.
- As mentioned above, never place cooked food on a plate that had raw meat on it, unless it has been thoroughly cleaned.
- Ah my favorite, grocery stores and what an amazing lack of training one sees now-a-days – chemicals placed in bags with food, chicken & beef placed in the same bag, or raw meat placed with other items like vegetables, boxed products, eggs, etc… Try to avoid these issues if at all possible – maybe even bring your own bags & pack them as you go.
Cook it Properly & Keep it Warm:
If you have ever worked in the food industry or watched a cooking show, you probably have heard about the “Danger Zone.” The danger zone is the range between 40°F to 140°F where different bacteria, parasites, etc… can thrive. That is generally why they say all food should be cooked to a minimum temperature of 145° F with the exception of ground meats and poultry which should be cooked till they hit 165°F. With this accomplished all hot dishes should be held at 140° or warmer until served.
Refrigerate Promptly & Keep it Cool:
- Never thaw or marinate meat at room temperature, it should always be done in the refrigerator
- When getting in from the store, promptly freeze or refrigerate items that require it
- DO NOT leave food out “to cool” – once it drops below 140°F, it should promptly be placed into the refrigerator or freezer.
- Taking the meat off the bone & placing it in smaller containers is the best way to help get Hams, Chicken, Turkey, etc… out of the danger zone quickly.
- Soups & Chili’s – smaller containers are a great option to help cool it down quickly, or if you have a large freezer, placing it in there for an hour will help get it down to temperature quicker without worrying about the eggs & milk in your refrigerator.
- While many individuals say that keeping your refrigerator at 40°F is fine, I prefer keeping it between 33°F to 35°F to help ensure there are no issues.
About Blog Action Day:
Since 2007, Blog Action Day has focused bloggers around the world to blog about one important global topic on the same day. This year, Blog Action Day will be held on October 16, which coincides with World Food Day, so naturally our 2011 theme is FOOD. This is our second year that we have participated (Last year’s was on water) & this year we are joining over 2250 bloggers from 100 countries have put there hands up to talk about food and take part in Blog Action Day. The next 24 hours will see a huge global conversation about food from many different perspectives and angles. Blog Action Day is about being part of a discussion, so why not join in?