Foodborne illness costly yet preventable
Foodborne illness, sometimes called food poisoning, is a costly yet preventable public health issue. Each year, about 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.
Bacteria, viruses and tiny parasites are everywhere in the environment. They are organisms you can’t see, smell, or taste and can contaminate food and cause illness. September is National Food Safety Education Month, which is a good opportunity to check out the following tips on how to keep food safe by following these four simple steps of clean, separate, cook, and chill.
Clean: Wash hands and surfaces
Wash hands with hot, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food, after using the bathroom, and changing diapers.
Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before going onto the next. Try using paper towels to clean kitchen surfaces. If you use cloth towels, wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
Rinse raw produce under running water. Don’t use soap or detergents. If needed, use a small vegetable brush to remove surface dirt.
Separate: Don’t cross contaminate
Separate raw meat, poultry, and seafood from other ready-to-eat foods in your grocery cart and refrigerator. Use a different cutting board for raw meat, poultry and seafood products.
Wash hands, cutting boards, dishes, and utensils with hot, soapy water after handling raw foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. Use separate plates for raw and cooked foods.
Cook: Cook food to proper temperatures
Cook roasts and steaks to a minimum of 145 degrees Fahrenheit with a 3-minute rest time. All poultry should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees. Cook ground meat to at least 160 degrees. Color is not a reliable indicator of doneness; use a food thermometer to check the internal temperatures.
Cook fish to 145 degrees or until the flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork.
Make sure there are no cold spots in food when cooking in a microwave. Cover food, stir and rotate for even cooking.
Bring sauces, soups and gravy to a boil when reheating. Heat other leftovers to 165 degrees.
Chill: Refrigerate promptly
Set your refrigerator temperature no higher than 40 degrees and freezer at 0 degrees. Check temperatures occasionally with an appliance thermometer.
Don’t let raw meat, poultry, eggs, cooked food or cut fresh fruits or vegetables sit at room temperature more than two hours before putting them in the refrigerator or freezer (one hour when temperatures are above 90 degrees).
Never defrost food at room temperature. Thaw food in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave. Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quick cooling in the refrigerator.
For more food, nutrition and health information go to www.food.unl.edu or scan the QR code with your smart phone or other electronic device to go directly to the website. The Panhandle Research and Extension Center is on the web at panhandle.unl.edu.