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Monday, July 18, 2016

Keep Foodborne Illness Off the Menu

Some estimates suggest that 1 in 6 people in the US will get sick from preventable foodborne illness every year.  90% of all illnesses due to known pathogens are caused by seven pathogens: Salmonella, Norovirus, Campylobacter, Toxoplasma, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria and Clostridium Perfringens.

Avoiding all these pathogens may seem a bit daunting for the average cook or consumer, but it really isn’t.  Here are 4 tips to keep you and your diners safe:
  1. Wash produce well.  The best way to eliminate bacteria from fresh fruits and veggies is to rinse well under running water.  Always wash before cutting – (cantaloupe, pineapple, etc) since the knife edge will carry the bacteria through the fruit if you cut unwashed produce. 
  2.  If you remember only one number on your food thermometer – it should be 165.  Cooking and reheating foods thoroughly is key to eliminating foodborne illness.  And its not just checking the temperature of that chicken breast in the oven – but leftovers as well.  If you are at work, and don’t have a thermometer on hand when you heat up your lunch, make sure that the center of the food is piping hot.  Warm just won’t cut it. 
  3. Keep an eye on the clock when entertaining.  Don’t leave food out for more than 2 hours.  At that point, it should be in the fridge in shallow, quickly-cool-able containers.  For picnic season – be sure to bring plenty of ice and keep the cooler closed.  If food is forgotten and left out for longer or an unknown period of time, throw it out.  It’s always better to throw out than throw up. 
  4. Keep it clean.  Avoid cross contamination by having separate cutting boards, etc. and be sure to sanitize an area after preparing raw eggs, meat, fish or poultry.  The most effective is also the cheapest.  1 Tbsp. bleach in 1 gallon of water makes a great sanitizing solution to wipe down surfaces in your kitchen.    And don’t forget to microwave your kitchen dishrag or sponge.  Wet your rag or sponge, then microwave for 2 minutes on high to kill any bacteria making a home in your most-used cleaning tool.