Foodborne Illness Is Serious Business

Illnesses caused by contaminated foods can strike anyone at any time. However, some people are at a higher risk for developing foodborne illness. Those at a higher risk include pregnant women, young children, older adults, and individuals with weakened immune systems. To reduce the risk of making someone sick you should pay attention to basic food safety practices. DHSS has a fact sheet on these practices which can be downloaded and printed at no charge. There are four basic steps to safe food handling.

  1. Clean - Illness causing bacteria can survive in many places around your kitchen, including your hands, utensils, and cutting boards. Washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and running water is one of the most important steps you can take. Wash your hands before, during, and after preparing food; before eating food; before and after treating a cut or wound; after using the toilet; after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; and after touching garbage. Ensure that equipment, utensils, and countertops are cleaned frequently. Wash raw fruits and vegetables under running water before eating or using as ingredients.
  2. Separate - Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from other foods in the shopping cart, grocery bag, and refrigerator. Use separate cutting boards for produce and meats. Never place cooked foods on a plate that was used for raw food without cleaning the plate first. Always start with clean equipment and hands.
  3. Cook - Cook to the right temperature. While many people think they can tell when food is “done” simply by checking its color and texture, there is no way to be sure food has reached the safe minimum cooking temperature without using a food thermometer. Check here for additional information on appropriate cooking temperatures.
  4. Chill - Refrigerate food promptly. Illness causing bacteria can grow in many foods within two hours unless you refrigerate them. Keep your refrigerator below 40°F. Never thaw frozen foods at room temperature.

Don’t prepare food for others if you are ill, especially with symptoms of diarrhea and/or vomiting. Be especially careful preparing food for young children, pregnant women, those in poor health, and older adults. To reduce your risk, educate yourself and your family on food safety issues. The bullet points below will provide additional information to help you understand how to prepare safe food and prevent food borne illnesses.