Food Safety 101

Millions of people become sick and thousands are hospitalized each year due to food borne illnesses. Luckily, practicing good food safety techniques will help to reduce your risk of developing food poisoning.

Certain people are more at risk for developing food borne illnesses and need to be extra cautious. This includes older adults, infants and young children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems and chronic illnesses such as diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, and HIV/AIDS.

The following tips will help to keep you healthy:

1. Keep it clean. Be sure that your kitchen surfaces and utensils are clean. It is also important to wash your hands thoroughly with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before, during, and after food preparation. You can sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice to reach the suggested 20 seconds.

2. Prepare meat safely. To prevent contamination, keep raw meat separate from other foods. You should use two cutting boards; one designated for raw meat and the other for ready to eat foods such as bread, fruit and vegetables. It is also important to keep raw meat on the lowest level in the refrigerator to keep meat juices from dripping on other food. Remember that raw meat should be thawed in the microwave or refrigerator and never on the counter or in the sink.

3. Cook foods to the proper temperature. Always use a meat thermometer to ensure that meat is cooked to the proper internal temperature. When cooking eggs, the yolk should be firm and not runny.

4. Refrigerate right away. Perishable foods and leftovers can’t be left out for more than two hours. Store perishable foods in your refrigerator at a temperature of 40°F or cooler. Leftovers should be reheated to a temperature of 165°F or higher.

It is important to recognize the signs of food poisoning. People often confuse food borne illnesses with the flu. Signs of food poisoning commonly include: headache, backache, stomach cramps, fatigue, fever, nausea and diarrhea. Symptoms of the flue include: headache, muscle cramps, fatigue, fever, chest discomfort or cough, nasal congestion, sore throat, and runny or stuffy nose. Proper hand washing and food handling are the best ways to prevent getting sick with food poisoning. If you become ill with these symptoms, contact your health care provider.

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