When It comes to food safety, it’s one of those things that many people don’t think about until a huge foodborne illness outbreak occurs, like salmonella! Practicing food safety is not something that you just do when you are preparing and cooking food. It’s something that you should practice anytime you first come into contact with food knowingly or unknowingly.
Let’s take for example the movie, “Outbreak”. The Outbreak, which started with one animal infected with a deadly virus, infected an entire city. In the movie you will see that not everyone came in contact with the animal; instead most of them contracted the virus by making contact (via the skin) with someone infected with the disease. Though this was a fictional movie based on a disease called Ebola, the way in which the virus spread to masses of people is similar to what could happen with foods contaminated with biological, chemical or physical hazards.
Though many of the foodborne illnesses (also known as food poisoning) can be treated, each year almost 3000 Americans die as a result of these illnesses. Furthermore, food poisoning can also be prevented just by doing a few simple things such as the following:
- Properly wash hands and especially after using the restroom! (wash in hot soapy water for 20 seconds)
- Washing produce in a vegetable/fruit wash (even if it has been “triple washed” and bagged)
- Covering ones hair or placing hair a ponytail while cooking
- Properly cooking meat (for accuracy use a thermometer)
- Eggs, pork, fish, beef steak, veal, and lamb should be cooked at 145 degrees
- Ground meat should be cooked at 155 degrees
- Poultry (chicken, turkey), ground poultry, stuffed meat, and all leftovers should be cooked at 165 degrees
- Properly defrosting/thawing, holding, and storing foods (do not allow meat to defrost or stay on the counters at room temperature)
- The maximum cold holding temperature is 41 degrees
- The minimum hot holding temperature is 135 degrees
- Food that is exposed to temperatures between 42 degrees and 134 degrees, the “Danger Zone” are considered dangerous because bacteria can grow exponentially fast in this range!
- Practicing proper hygiene
- Avoiding cross contamination
- Using gloves or tongs for “ready to eat” foods
When people get the opportunity to work with me in the kitchen, many think that I am extreme because most of us have not practiced food safety to this level if at all. So, if you haven’t been practicing food safety in your kitchen or whenever you are handling food in general–at work, in the grocery store, etc. you should start today–it could save you from the discomfort of the food poisoning side effects or worse–death! For additional information on food safety, please visit the FoodSafety.gov website.