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Fight food poisoning this holiday season (and beyond)

As we approach the holidays, it’s a good time to review key steps to avoid getting a foodborne illness.

Think it can’t (or won’t) happen to you? You might want to rethink that. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1 in 6 Americans get sick by consuming contaminated foods and beverages each year, and 3,000 die from these illnesses. The financial cost alone is upward of $15.6 billion annually.

Part of the problem in battling this sweep of illness is the wide scope of possible contaminants, including bacteria, viruses, parasites and other pathogens, along with toxins and chemicals. The best approach to keep problem pathogens at bay is to follow these four food safety practices (courtesy of FightBac.org) this holiday season and throughout the year.

  • CLEAN – Bacteria can be spread throughout the kitchen and get onto hands, cutting boards, utensils, counter tops and food. Remember to wash hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap, and wash cutting boards, dishes and kitchen utensils before preparing another food item.
  • SEPARATE – Cross-contamination is how bacteria can be spread. Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from other foods , and use separate cutting boards for fresh produce and meat/poultry/seafood.
  • COOK – Food is safely cooked when it reaches an internal temperature that kills the harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of cooked foods.
  • CHILL – Refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria. Keeping a constant refrigerator temperature of 40°F or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

For more detailed information, visit www.fightbac.org/food-safety-basics/the-core-four-practices/ and www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/.

If you think you might have a foodborne illness, contact your doctor or health care professional, or call 911 in an emergency. The Florida Department of Health also suggests filing a report with the Sarasota County health office by calling 861-2900 or emailing DOHSarasotaInfo@FLHealth.gov.

 

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