Food is a great way to connect people in a fun way. However, caring about food safety is as important as what is being served on the menu. The CDC estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. Read on for food safety tips to ensure you are ready for another helping of healthy food.
In Your Kitchen
Make sure food is handled, prepared, and stored safely in order to prevent foodborne illnesses. The USDA endorses some best practices for food safety:
- Be sure food purchased is not expired, and packing is intact.
- Refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours (1 hour when the temperature is above 90 degrees F).
- Be mindful of washing your hands before and after handling food. Do not cross-contaminate – raw meats must be prepped separate. Clean and disinfect all surfaces, cutting boards, and utensils before and after being exposed to raw food.
- Cook food to proper temperature to keep food safe for eating.
- Microwave safely. Cooking food to the proper temperature applies to foods that microwaved just as much as foods that are cooked in ovens or on stove tops. Also, proper microwave containers are important. Be sure to use glass and microwave-safe ceramic dishware. Using containers that are not microwave safe, such as plastics, to prepare food in the microwave may be harmful to your health. Studies have found that during microwaving, certain chemicals in plastic can leach out of the plastic and into the food we eat.
Harvest to Table
Your backyard can offer an inexpensive and healthy alternative to providing nutritious and safe food. Consider starting a vegetable garden or purchasing an aero garden. You do not have to have a green thumb to grow your own produce, herbs, and spices. Growing your own food ingredients is a way to consume vitamins, antioxidants, and phytonutrients without additives (some additives are designed to lengthen the shelf life of food but offer no nutritional value).
On the Road
When eating at a restaurant or traveling, select real foods that are not overly handled. Select cooked options over raw choices. Be sure your server is not visibly sick.
Safer methods of cooking when traveling: microwaving, boiling, steaming, poaching, broiling, roasting, grilling, sauteing.
Be sure to handle all of your food with clean hands to avoid contaminating your food.
When selecting quick snacks, opt for fruits that you can peel yourself (banana, oranges); wash the skin before peeling. Opt for dry snacks such as packaged nuts, popcorn, granola, dried fruits, and seeds.
The CDC reports that some foods are more associated with foodborne illnesses and food poisoning than others. They can carry harmful germs that can make you very sick if the food is contaminated.
- Raw foods of animal origin are the most likely to be contaminated, specifically raw or undercooked meat and poultry, raw or lightly cooked eggs, unpasteurized (raw) milk, and raw shellfish.
- Fruits and vegetables also may get contaminated. Follow these seven tips on cleaning fruits and vegetables from the FDA.
- While certain foods are more likely to make you sick, any food can get contaminated in the field, during processing, or during stages of food production; including through cross-contamination with raw meat in kitchens.
Practicing food safety is a proactive way to avoid catching a foodborne illness. To learn more on food safety visit www.foodsafety.gov.