Each year roughly 1 out of 6 Americans (48 million people) get sick, approximately 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases. By reducing foodborne illness by just 1% about 500,000 Americans would keep from getting sick each year; reducing foodborne illness by 10% would keep about 5 million from getting sick. That is a lot of people! From protecting yourself from potentially contaminated food at the grocery store, to property storing, cleaning and cooking food at home, below are food and safety tips you should practice to help keep you and your family safe.
Be aware of potential safety risks when purchasing food at grocery stores or farmers markets, and from wholesalers. Visit the Food and Drug Administration and Food Safety and Inspection Service websites for the latest food and drug recalls. Follow @USDAFoodSafety and @FDArecalls on twitter to get the latest recall information, you can also follow us at @ShepardMedical where we post food recalls in the US. FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection Service) recommends: “If you sense there’s a problem with any food product, don’t consume it. ‘When in doubt, throw it out.’” Do not eat or taste food from cans that bulge or leak or that have a sticky residue or an unusual smell as the food could be contaminated. Read food packaging labels for instructions on how to store foods after opening and for expiration dates.
Be especially careful when picking out produce and meat. Make sure the produce is not bruised because pathogens are more likely to grow on bruised areas. Be aware of fungus growing on produce because spores could be inside it. Always check for insects on produce. Raw meat, poultry and fish can be contaminated with bacteria, so it is best to put the product in a bag to reduce cross-contamination with other grocery items. If your local grocer does not keep bags at the meat counter don’t be afraid to suggest it.
Proper temperature is important to keep food safe. Buy a food thermometer to ensure you are cooking raw meats and eggs to proper temperatures. Store food promptly in a refrigerator at 40 F or cooler. Do not overload refrigerators or freezers as that may prevent cool air from circulating. Defrost food in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave.
Proper storage helps maintain food at safe temperatures and prevents cross contamination. Store milk, eggs, seafood and meat inside the refrigerator or freezer, not in door compartments. This keeps food at a steadier temperature. Store raw meat in the lowest compartment of the refrigerator and make sure that it isn’t leaking blood. Do not store food under the sink. Pipe leaks could contaminate it. Also don’t store food near chemicals or cleaning products. Seafood should always stay in the refrigerator or freezer until cooking time.
Washing may reduce risk in some but not all foods. Do not wash eggs. They already have been washed in commercial production. An extra washing may increase risk of cross-contamination or crack the shell Do not wash meat or poultry as this does not remove pathogens. Washing produce with cold running water removes dirt, reducing (but not completely eliminating) bacteria that may be present. Don’t use soap or detergent, or you may ingest it.
Practice the above tips to help purchase and prepare healthy food. If you have any additional questions we’re here to help! Tweet us @ShepardMedical. Also follow us on Pinterest where we are continually pinning food safety tips!