HOUSTON - Food-borne illness (also referred to as food poisoning) is any illness which results from the consumption of contaminated food. There are two types of food poisoning: infectious agent and toxic agent.
Food infection is the presence of bacteria which infect the body after consumption. Food intoxication refers to the ingestion of toxins contained within the food.
Food safety in your home is very important; in fact, about 60 percent of food-borne illness may come from your home. Also, every year in the United States, improper food handling causes 76 million food-borne illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations as well as death.
A food which is moist and contains protein are the most potentially hazardous. This category includes meat, fish, dairy, poultry, eggs, cooked rice, tofu, cooked potatoes, and cut melons.
The following four very important tips can keep your food safe for yourself and your family.
#1 - Wash Your Hands
Wash your hands with warm water and soap for twenty seconds which is about the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday.” Rinse your hands under clean, warm water which is better than cold water to get rid of the germs.
To ensure we keep the harmful bacteria to a minimum, we need to have clean hands when we are in contact with any food or food surfaces.
Hands should be washed before preparing food, after handling raw meats, or when changing tasks. We should also wash our hands before returning to our task if we leave the kitchen for any reason; for example, after going to the restroom, after taking out the garbage, smoking, sneezing, or coughing.
Remember to wash your hands after touching other items besides food and food surfaces such as doorknobs, telephones, or the kitchen trash. These surfaces can contain harmful bacteria that can lead to food-borne illness.
#2 - Avoid Contamination
Keep raw food and ready-to-eat food separate. Also, never use the same unsanitized knife to cut meat and food you may eat without cooking, such as breads, fruits, or raw vegetables.
In addition, use different cutting boards and utensils to prepare raw and ready-to-eat food or sanitize the area before you handle the next food item.
Bacteria from one food can be left behind on the cutting board or knife and can transfer to the next food item. Unfortunately, you will not see, smell, or taste a difference in the food.
#3 - Cook to Proper Temperature
Consuming raw or under cooked food can make you ill. So, make sure to cook your meats to 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill any bacteria. Reheat leftover food to 145 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure they are safe as well. You can purchase a cooking thermometer at your local grocery store to take the temperature of your food.
#4 - Refrigerate Food Quickly
Certain food must be refrigerated to ensure bacteria will not grow to a level where it may harm the person who consumes the food. The temperature range of 41 degrees Fahrenheit to 135 degrees Fahrenheit is known as the “danger zone,” where bacteria grow the fastest. For instance, meats, fish, and dairy food should not be eaten if they have been sitting out for more than four hours.
Ensure the refrigerator is set to a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below to keep bacteria from growing in your food.
Remember, get food through the “danger zone” as quickly as possible by cooking, cooling, or reheating in the right way. Visit www.homefoodsafety.org for more information and to take the “How Safe is Your Kitchen” quiz.