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A critical part of eating healthy is keeping the food safe. People can reduce contaminants and keep food safe by following safe food handling practices at their own homes. There are four basic food safety principles that work together to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. These are clean, cook, separate and chill.
- Wash hands with soap and water – Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap. Use warm water if that is available. Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub all the parts of the hand for about 20 seconds. Rinse your hands thoroughly and dry using a clean paper or cloth towel. Then, use a towel to turn off the tap.
- Sanitize all the surfaces – The surfaces should be cleaned with warm, soapy water. A solution of one tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water can be used to sanitize surfaces.
- Clean sweep refrigerated foods once a week – At least once a week, throw out the foods in your refrigerator that should no longer be eaten. Cooked leftovers should be discarded within a day; raw poultry and ground meats, within a couple of days.
- Keep appliances clean – Clean the inside and the outside of all kitchen appliances. Pay specific attention to buttons and handles where cross-contamination to hands can occur.
- Rinse produce– Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water just before eating, or cooking. Even if you want to peel or cut the produce before eating, it is crucial to thoroughly rinse it first to prevent microbes from transferring from the outside to the inside of the food.
- Separate foods when shopping – Place raw meat, seafood and poultry in plastic containers. Store them right below ready-to-eat foods in your fridge.
- Separate foods when preparing and serving– Always use a clean chopping board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, seafood and poultry. Never keep cooked food back on the same plate or chopping board that previously held raw food.
COOK AND CHILL
- Use a food thermometer when cooking – A food thermometer should be used to ensure that food is safely cooked and that cooked food is held at safe temperatures until eaten.
- Cook food to safe internal temperatures – One effective way to avoid illness is to check the internal temperature of meat, poultry, seafood and egg dishes. Cook all raw pork, beef, lamb, veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a safe minimum internal temperature of 145°F. For safety and quality, allow the meat to rest for at least three minutes before eating.
- Keep food at safe temperatures – Hold cold food at 40°F or below. Keep hot food at 140°F or above. Food is no longer safe to eat when they have been in the danger zone between 40-140°F for more than 2 hours.
One of the biggest delights of summer is eating outdoors such as at picnics, street fairs, sidewalk cafes, or even in your own backyard. However, one must also be careful about food poisoning, especially during the summers. Around 48 million people fall sick every year from foodborne illnesses, as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and these numbers peak during the summer season. Scientists have classified more than 250 foodborne diseases, mostly infections caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, but also some toxins and chemicals. These are the top five foodborne illnesses, according to the CDC:
- Norovirus is the most common one which causes diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and sometimes headache, fever and body aches. It develops within a couple of days of exposure and usually subsides within three days. Some commonly contaminated foods are fresh fruits, leafy greens, and shellfish grown in contaminated water.
- Salmonella can cause fever, diarrhoea, and abdominal cramps within three days of infection and generally lasts four to seven days.
- Clostridium perfringens is a bacterium usually found on poultry and raw meat. Outbreaks are linked to foods prepared in large quantities and kept warm for a long time before serving. Diarrhoea and abdominal cramps develop within a day of exposure and usually last only a day.
- Campylobacter causes diarrhoea, fever, and abdominal cramps, and sometimes nausea and vomiting. These symptoms may develop within two to five days after exposure and usually subside within a week. It is linked to contaminated food preparation and consumption of unwashed produce, undercooked meat, and unpasteurized dairy products.
- Staphylococcal food poisoning starts very suddenly, within thirty minutes to eight hours of infection, and is generally caused by not washing hands before handling food.
Like most foodborne illnesses, these usually subside on their own. You must stay hydrated as dehydration can cause severe complications. It is advisable to consult your doctor if symptoms are severe or persistent (including bloody diarrhoea, a fever over 100 degrees F, weakness or other signs of dehydration). Most often than not, foodborne illnesses do not require treatment. However, some (including some parasites) do require medical intervention.
Preventing Foodborne Diseases
The most effective way to avoid foodborne illnesses is by washing your hands. You must use soap and running water and scrub thoroughly for 20 seconds. If you do not have access to soap and water, your second-best option is a hand-sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol.
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