According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), one in six Americans get sick each year from eating contaminated food. There are many different germs that can contaminate food, resulting in more than 250 foodborne diseases. Infections such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins, and chemicals can contaminate foods and cause foodborne illness. Common symptoms of foodborne illness are nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. Although certain groups are more susceptible to developing a foodborne illness, anyone can get sick from eating contaminated food.
There are four simple food safety steps that lower your chance of getting food poisoning:
- Wash hands and surfaces often.
- Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before, during, and after preparing food.
- Wash utensils, cutting boards, and countertops with hot, soapy water.
- Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water.
- Don’t cross-contaminate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs with ready-to-eat food.
- Use separate cutting boards and plates for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
- Keep raw meat away from other food while shopping and in the refrigerator
- Food is safely cooked when its internal temperature is high enough to kill germs that can make you sick. The only way to tell if food is safely cooked is to use a good thermometer.
- Not all food cooks to the same internal temperature, so make sure to check the recommended internal temperature before cooking.
- Keep your refrigerator below 40°F.
- Refrigerate perishable foods within two hours.
- Thaw frozen food in the refrigerator, under cold water, or in the microwave. Never that foods on the counter.
There are also certain foods that are more often associated with foodborne illness and food poisoning. One group of such foods common for college students is fresh fruits and vegetables. The safest fruits and vegetables are those that have been cooked; the next safest are washed. Salmonella, E.coli, and Listeria can often be found on fresh fruits and vegetables, but there are steps that can be taken to keep you healthy.
At the grocery store, choose fruits and vegetables that are free of bruises or damaged spots. Select precut produce that is refrigerated or kept on ice. Keep fruits and vegetables separate from raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
At home, wash your hands before and after preparing fruits and vegetables. Wash or scrub all fruits and vegetables under running water before eating, cutting, or cooking. Use a separate cutting board for fruits and vegetables that is never used for cutting or preparing raw meat. Refrigerate cut, peeled, or cooked fruits and vegetables as soon as possible or within two hours.