Food Safety - Preventing Foodborne Illness (cont.)
These conditions include:
When symptoms are severe, the victim should see a doctor or get emergency
help. This is especially important for those who are most vulnerable. For mild
cases of foodborne illness, the individual should drink plenty of liquids to
replace fluids lost through vomiting and diarrhea.
The idea that the food on the dinner table can make someone sick may be
disturbing, but there are many steps you can take to protect your families and
dinner guests. It's just a matter of following basic rules of food safety.
Prevention of foodborne illness starts with your trip to the supermarket.
- Pick up your packaged and canned foods first.
- Don't buy food in cans that are bulging or dented or
in jars that are cracked or have loose or bulging lids.
- Don't eat raw shellfish and use only pasteurized milk
and cheese and pasteurized or otherwise treated ciders and juices if you have
problem, especially one that may have impaired your immune system.
- Choose eggs that are refrigerated in the store.
Before putting them in your cart, open the carton and make sure that the eggs
are clean and none are cracked.
- Select frozen foods and perishables such as meat,
poultry or fish last. Always put these products in separate plastic bags so
that drippings don't contaminate other foods in your shopping cart.
- Don't buy frozen seafood if the packages are open,
torn or crushed on the edges. Avoid packages that are above the frost line in
the store's freezer. If the package cover is transparent, look for signs of
frost or ice crystals. This could mean that the fish has either been stored
for a long time or thawed and refrozen.
- Check for cleanliness at the meat or fish counter and
the salad bar. For instance, cooked shrimp lying on the same bed of ice as raw
fish could become contaminated.
- When shopping for shellfish, buy from markets that
get their supplies from state-approved sources; stay clear of vendors who sell
shellfish from roadside stands or the back of a truck. And if you're planning
to harvest your own shellfish, heed posted warnings about the safety of the
- Take an ice chest along to keep frozen and perishable foods cold if it
will take more than an hour to get your groceries home.
- The first rule of food storage in the home is to
refrigerate or freeze perishables right away. The refrigerator temperature
should be 40 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius), and the freezer should be
zero F (minus 18 C). Check both "fridge" and freezer periodically with a
- Poultry and meat heading for the refrigerator may be
stored as purchased in the plastic wrap for a day or two. If only part of the
meat or poultry is going to be used right away, it can be wrapped loosely for
refrigerator storage. Just make sure juices can't escape to contaminate other
- Wrap tightly foods destined for the freezer.
Leftovers should be stored in tight containers.
- Store eggs in their carton in the refrigerator itself
rather than on the door, where the temperature is warmer.
- Seafood should always be kept in the refrigerator or
freezer until preparation time.
- Don't crowd the refrigerator or freezer so tightly
that air can't circulate. Check the leftovers in covered dishes and storage
bags daily for spoilage. Anything that looks or smells suspicious should be
- A sure sign of spoilage is the presence of mold, which can grow
even under refrigeration. While not a major health threat, mold can make food
unappetizing. Most moldy foods should be thrown out. But you might be able to
save molding hard cheeses, salami, and firm fruits and vegetables if you cut
out not only the mold but a large area around it. Cutting the larger area
around the mold is important because much of the mold growth is below the
surface of the food.
- Always check the labels on cans or jars to determine
how the contents should be stored. Many items besides fresh meats, vegetables,
and dairy products need to be kept cold. For instance, mayonnaise and ketchup
should go in the refrigerator after opening. If you've neglected to
refrigerate items, it's usually best to throw them out.
- Some precautions will help make sure that foods that
can be stored at room temperature remain safe. Potatoes and onions should not
be stored under the sink because leakage from the pipes can damage the food.
Potatoes don't belong in the refrigerator, either. Store them in a cool, dry
place. Don't store foods near household cleaning products and chemicals.
- Check canned goods to see whether any are sticky on
the outside. This may indicate a leak. Newly purchased cans that appear to be
leaking should be returned to the store, which should notify the FDA.
Keep It Clean
The first cardinal rule of safe food preparation in the home is: Keep
The cleanliness rule applies to the areas where food is prepared and, most
importantly, to the cook.
- Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20
seconds before starting to prepare a meal and after handling raw meat or
- Cover long hair with a net or scarf, and be sure that
any open sores or cuts on the hands are completely covered. If the sore or cut
is infected, stay out of the kitchen.
- Keep the work area clean and uncluttered. Wash
countertops with a solution of 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach to 1 quart of
water or with a commercial kitchen cleaning agent diluted according to product
directions. They're the most effective at getting rid of bacteria.
- Also, be sure to keep dishcloths clean because, when
wet, they can harbor bacteria and may promote their growth. Wash dishcloths
weekly in hot water in the washing machine.
- Sanitize the kitchen sink drain periodically by
pouring down the sink a solution of 1 teaspoon of bleach to 1 quart of water
or a commercial kitchen cleaning agent. Food particles get trapped in the
drain and disposal and, along with the moistness, create an ideal environment
for bacterial growth.
- Use smooth cutting boards made of hard maple or a
non-porous material such as plastic and free of cracks and crevices. Avoid
boards made of soft, porous materials. Wash cutting boards with hot water and
soap, using a scrub brush. Then, sanitize them by washing in an automatic
dishwasher or by rinsing with a solution of 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach to 1
quart of water.
- Always wash and sanitize cutting boards after using
them for raw foods, such as seafood or chicken, and before using them for
ready-to-eat foods. Consider using one cutting board only for foods that will
be cooked, such as raw fish, and another only for ready-to-eat foods, such as
bread, fresh fruit, and cooked fish.
- Always use clean utensils and wash them between
cutting different foods.
- Wash the lids of canned foods before opening to keep
dirt from getting into the food. Also, clean the blade of the can opener after
each use. Food processors and meat grinders should be taken apart and cleaned
as soon as possible after they are used.
- Do not put cooked meat on an unwashed plate or
platter that has held raw meat.
- Wash fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly, rinsing under running
water. Don't use soap or other detergents. If necessary--and
appropriate--use a small scrub brush to remove surface dirt.