By Howard Seltzer, FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
Some people don’t take food poisoning very seriously. Maybe that’s because the symptoms usually are not long-lasting in most healthy people—a few hours or a few days—and usually go away without medical treatment. But foodborne illness can be severe, even life-threatening to anyone, especially those most at risk such as older adults, infants and young children, pregnant women, and people with HIV/AIDS, cancer, or any condition that weakens their immune systems.
Threats to food safety constantly evolve. New disease-causing organisms emerge and known pathogens become more virulent. In addition, consumers increasingly want food that is less processed. Even though government food safety regulators received important new tools to help protect us in the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, it’s clear that individuals need to take every practical step they can to prevent foodborne illness.
Food Safety Resolutions
Since it’s traditional at the start of a new year to think about what needs to be changed in one’s life to make it happier and healthier, here are a few suggestions for resolutions to help eliminate foodborne illness from your and your families’ lives.
Clean: Resolve to wash your hands before, during and after handling food. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), handwashing has the potential to save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention. To do it effectively, wet your hands with clean running water (warm or cold) and apply soap. Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well for at least 20 seconds. Air dry or use a clean paper towel.
Separate: If you only have one cutting board, resolve to get another to help avoid cross-contamination. Use one for foods that will be cooked, such as meat, poultry, and seafood, and the other for foods like fruits and vegetables that will be eaten raw. That way the raw foods won’t be contaminated by the juices from the ones to be cooked. If you do get a new cutting board, get one that’s dishwasher-safe. The very hot water and strong detergent typically used in dishwashers can eliminate a lot of bacteria.
Cook: Resolve to get a food thermometer, if you don’t have one. Only a food thermometer can make sure meat, poultry, fish, and casseroles are cooked to a safe internal temperature—hot enough to kill any pathogens that may be present.
Chill: Similarly, resolve to get an appliance thermometer to be sure your refrigerator is at or below 40ºF. Between 40ºF and 140ºF is the Danger Zone when bacteria multiply rapidly. The more bacteria, the more likely someone will get sick. Most refrigerators have just a colder/warmer adjustment, so the only way to know the temperature is to put a thermometer inside. And it’s a good idea to put one in the freezer to be sure the temperature is 0ºF or below.
For more information, check out these resources:
- Long-Term Effects of Food Poisoning
- Types of Food Thermometers
- Separate, Don’t Cross-Contaminate >
- CDC Vital Signs, Making Food Safer to Eat
If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at the Hotline (1-888-674-6854 toll-free) or online at AskKaren.gov.
by Maribel Alonso, Bilingual Information Specialist, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service
The holidays are a cherished time of year, when you enjoy the company of family and friends. Why spoil it with symptoms of yersiniosis, such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache, fever, and vomiting?
If you and your family are preparing chitterlings or any other food prepared with hog intestines to celebrate the New Year, find out how you can protect yourself and those you care about from yersiniosis.
Yersiniosis is a foodborne illness caused by Yersinia enterolitica. When raw pig intestines are cleaned and cooked in household kitchens to prepare chitterlings, it creates a messy environment in which cross contamination with Yersinia can occur.
After chitterlings are thoroughly boiled and carefully prepared, the final product is not likely to be a risk for foodborne illness. The risk comes from the preparation process. This harmful bacteria can be spread to kitchen counters, tables, utensils, and even baby bottles and pacifiers. People can also get yersiniosis from consuming raw or undercooked pork.
Reduce the Risk of Yersiniosis
Use this checklist to make sure you do everything possible to reduce the risk of Yersiniosis from chitterlings:
- Follow the four steps--Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill--at all times when preparing and handling food.
- Thaw chitterlings in the refrigerator. Wrap the container of raw chitterlings in plastic wrap before placing it in the refrigerator, or set it on a plate or tray.
- Buy precooked chitterlings. Or, if using raw chitterlings, pre-boil them for 5 minutes before cleaning and cooking. (This will kill any harmful bacteria without changing the flavor.)
- Thoroughly wash hands with soap and warm water for a full 20 seconds before and after the preparation of chitterlings.
- Wash utensils, cutting boards, dishes, and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before moving on to the next item.
- Sanitize countertops, equipment, utensils, and cutting boards with a freshly prepared solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water. Flood the surface with the bleach solution and allow it to stand for several minutes. Rinse with clear water and air dry or pat dry with clean paper towels.
- Keep children out of the kitchen when chitterlings are being prepared.
- Boil and simmer chitterlings until are well cooked and tender.
- Enjoy a safe meal with family and friends.
For more information, check out these resources:
- Fact sheet: Yersiniosis and Chitterlings: Tips to Protect You and Those You Care For From Foodborne Illness Podcast: Chitterlings and Yersiniosis
By Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Tom Vilsack, Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture (Co-Chairs, President Obama’s Food Safety Working Group (FSWG))
With the holiday season in full swing, many of us are thinking about the meals we’ll soon be sharing with family and friends. Whether it’s turkey and egg nog, or latkes, or a New Year’s buffet, food is always a central and cherished part of the festivities. Of course, we all know that a necessary ingredient for any meal is food safety.
When the President came into office, he said that “protecting the safety of our food and drugs is one of the most fundamental responsibilities government has.” He pledged to strengthen our food safety laws and to enhance the government’s food safety performance.
To help accomplish that goal, the Administration worked with Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle, and a broad coalition of industry and consumer groups, to enact the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, or FSMA. FSMA is the most sweeping reform of our food laws in more than 70 years. It will apply modern scientific methods to target and prevent the most significant hazards and hold importers accountable for the safety of the food they bring into this country. FDA is working towards a release of proposed rules to implement FSMA and to build a modern new system of food safety oversight that harnesses the best available practices.
To oversee all of the Administration’s food safety efforts, the President created the Federal Food Safety Working Group, led by our two departments. Partner agencies include the FDA and CDC.
We’re pleased to say that the Working Group’s just released Report shows that this Administration has delivered substantial results in the area of food safety. These include stricter standards to prevent contamination of food with dangerous bacteria, stronger surveillance to detect contamination problems earlier, and more rapid response to illness outbreaks.
FSIS announced tougher and new standards to prevent as many as 25,000 illnesses annually from Salmonella and Campylobacter. FSIS will soon prohibit any raw ground beef found to contain six additional types of E. coli bacteria from being sold to consumers, preventing additional illnesses and deaths.
FDA established an egg safety rule that is expected to help prevent 79,000 illnesses and save one billion dollars each year. And its new “Reportable Food Registry” requires the food industry to file electronic reports about food safety problems. The Registry already led to the recall of products that presented a risk of Salmonella.
CDC, along with frontline state and local disease detectives coordinated the response to over 20 outbreaks across states and tracked more than 200 clusters of suspected foodborne illness. Many illnesses were prevented and lives saved by prompt action taken by Colorado and other states during the recent Listeria outbreak.
These are significant accomplishments, but our joint New Year’s resolution is that you’ll see many more great things in 2012. Among these next steps, the FDA intends to further strengthen food safety prevention efforts. We will take even greater strides on this front when the FDA issues proposed rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act.
And we all need to do our part to keep food safe. Keep hands and work surfaces clean. Separate raw meats, eggs and seafood from other foods. Refrigerate any food that should be refrigerated, including pie, within two hours. Don’t use unpasteurized eggs or egg products for any recipe calling for raw eggs, and cook foods to a safe internal temperature. Use a food thermometer to ensure that meat, poultry, and fish achieve a safe internal temperature; turkey and stuffing should both be 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Make sure food safety is at the top of your holiday list - it’s the best gift you can give those who will gather around your table for the holidays.