Food poisoning also known as foodborne illness in the health industry is a very common illness in our daily lifestyle. According to Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there’s more than 200 known disease are transmitted through food. CDC also estimated that foodborne diseases cause approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year. The causes of foodborne illness varies but can be categorized into six different category, which are: viruses, bacteria, parasites, toxins, metals, and prions. The symptoms of foodborne illness ranges from symptom free to life threatening depending on what kind of infections you’ve contracted. Food poisoning can be easily prevented either at home or dining out when food safety guidelines is being followed.
GENERAL HOME FOOD SAFETY:
Most people think they know when the food is done or properly cooked by just “eyeballing” it. However, what they didn’t realize is that the meat may not be safe to consume due to some lingering bacteria, viruses or parasites that can survive at a low cooking temperature. It is crucial to understand what kind of meat needs to be cooked at a certain temperature for the food to be considered safe to consume.
1) TEMPERATURE DANGER ZONE- The Danger Zone is between (40F – 140F). It is a temperature range in which bacteria and spoilage bacteria grow quickest. Lower temperatures prevent the bacteria from growing to a dangerous levels that produces toxin in our food that causes food poisoning.
2) USE OF FOOD THERMOMETER – Using the thermometer to help protect yourself and your family from getting sick. Making sure the food you are preparing reached the minimum recommended cooking internal temperature for food safety. The thermometer should be placed in the thickest part of the food to ensure proper reading but make sure the probe is not near fat or bone area as those areas tends to be higher in temperature.
3) PROPER REFRIGERATION – The temperature of your refrigerator and freezer also important part of food safety. It’s recommended to keep the refrigerator below 40F and freezer to be below 0F. This is due to the bacteria can still grow at the temperature danger zone if it’s not below 40 degrees F. Also, when you go grocery shopping, it is best to go home right away after your trip to ensure proper refrigeration,
4) THAWING, COOKING & REHEATING FOODS – Thaw food in refrigerator a day before cooking or submerge frozen foods in cold water and change the water every 30 minutes. If you are using microwave to thaw foods, cook immediately after thawing. Cooking foods to the proper temperature can kill many harmful bacteria. The recommended cooking and reheating temperature are as follow:
a) All leftover meals needs to be reheated to 165F to be considered safe to eat.
b) Fresh beef (well done), Fresh pork (well done) : 170F
c) Poultry (chicken, turkey), Stuffing, Ground meats (chicken, turkey) : 165F
d) Ground meats (beef, pork, veal, ham), Pork, roast beef (medium), Ham (fresh), Eggs: 160F
e) Roast beef (rare), Fish : 145F
5) PERSONAL HYGIENE – Make sure you wash your hand properly before and after handling raw foods, after touching your face or hair, and after using the bathroom. Avoid cross contamination, use two different chopping block to handle meats and vegetables separately.
GENERAL SAFETY WHILE DINING OUT:
1) CLEANLINESS – When you walk into the restaurant, look around before taking your seat. If the dining area and the bathroom is not clean, chances are the kitchen will not be as well. Don’t feel bad to walk away from the restaurant if you don’t feel safe eating in it.
2) FOOD TEMPERATURE- Only eat the food when it is serve to you hot. If it’s lukewarm, most likely the food has been sitting in the kitchen for awhile. You don’t want to risk the chances of getting sick. Ask the waiter/waitress to reheat the food for you.
3) STAFF HYGIENE – Make sure to check the staff is handling your food and beverage correctly. They are not suppose to touch the lip of your glass and the tips of your silverware when placing it on your table. Also make sure they don’t touch the food with their bare hands. The outer corner of the plate is safe as it did not come in direct contact with the food itself.
4) LEFTOVER- If you can’t take your leftover home within 2 hours when it first served, don’t take it home at all. Remember the temperature danger zone, when the food are left in the danger zone for more than 2 hours, the bacteria will start to grow rapidly. If you must take your food home with you, make sure to refrigerate it immediately and reheat it to at least 165F when you are about to eat it the day after. Do not keep leftover in your fridge for more than 3 days.
If you would like to know more about details of food safety and other sanitation tips, you can go to the National Sanitation Foundation website.