World Food Safety Day might be right around the corner (June 7), but it’s a good idea to be aware every day of how we handle our food.
That’s not necessarily the case for many. As evidence, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics notes that “…outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with restaurant and store-bought food get plenty of media attention despite the reality, which is that more foodborne illnesses are caused by mishandling food in our own kitchens.” (Duyff, R.2017. Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. pg. 191.)
Simply put, eating contaminated food can cause a foodborne illness (sometimes called food poisoning). Often, symptoms of a foodborne illness are mistaken for other health issues because the symptoms vary widely. Foodborne illness has no age limit, either. But, those at greater risk include the very young, pregnant women and their unborn child, as well as older adults and anyone with a weakened immune system.
So, what can we do in our home kitchen to reduce this risk? Nothing earth-shaking. Just follow the basic food safety practices for serving, handling and food storage:
- CLEAN: Always start food preparation with clean hands. That means washing with warm water and soap lather for 20 seconds. Also, make sure to you have clean countertops and cooking utensils.
- SEPARATE: Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw foods, such as seafood, meat and poultry, away from foods that are consumed without cooking, like fruits, lettuce and the like. Ideally, use separate cutting boards, each a different color. An easy visual cue: use a red cutting board for raw meats and seafood and, perhaps, a white or green cutting board for your fresh tomatoes, lettuce and vegetables. Remember, germs like to travel and can easily spread from one food to another.
- COOK: Use a food thermometer to make sure cooked foods have reached their proper internal temperature. Don’t rely on the way food looks. Remember: heat kills germs. So, foods need to get hot.
- CHILL: Refrigerate foods as soon as possible. Don’t ever consume food that has lingered on the kitchen for hours. WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT!
It’s our responsibility to keep ourselves and our families safe. Take the time to practice these guidelines daily and at each meal.
In my next few blog posts, we’ll talk about some basic cleanliness habits that you should include in your kitchen every day. We will take each of the four food safety guidelines and break each one down with some practical habits to add into your meal preparation.