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.
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.
By Howard Seltzer, FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
The holiday season is a time for celebration and great food. Don’t let merriment change to misery because food makes you or others ill.
Don’t give the gift of food poisoning; Keep things clean
- Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling any food.
- Wash food-contact surfaces (cutting boards, dishes, utensils, countertops) with hot, soapy water before and after preparing each food item.
- Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly under cool running water and use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.
- Do not rinse raw meat and poultry before cooking in order to avoid spreading bacteria to areas around the sink and countertops.
Separate to Avoid Cross-Contamination
- Whether shopping in the store, storing food in the refrigerator at home, or while preparing meals, keep raw eggs, meat, poultry, seafood, and their juices away from foods that won't be cooked.
- Consider using one cutting board only for foods that will be cooked, such as raw meat, poultry, and seafood, and another one for those that will not be cooked, such as raw fruits and vegetables.
- Keep fruits and vegetables that will be eaten raw separate from other foods such as raw meat, poultry or seafood—and from kitchen utensils used for those products.
- Do not put cooked meat or other food that is ready to eat on an unwashed plate that has held any raw eggs, meat, poultry, seafood, or their juices.
Cook to a Safe Internal Temperature
- Use a food thermometer to make sure meat, poultry, and fish are cooked to a safe internal temperature. To check a turkey for safety, insert a food thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. The turkey is safe when the temperature reaches 165ºF. If the turkey is stuffed, the temperature of the stuffing should also be 165ºF.
- Bring sauces, soups, and gravies to a rolling boil when reheating.
- Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm. When making your own eggnog or other recipe calling for raw eggs, use pasteurized shell eggs, liquid or frozen pasteurized egg products, or powdered egg whites.
- Don't eat uncooked cookie dough, which may contain raw eggs.
Chill Because Harmful Bacteria Grow Rapidly At Room Temperature
- Refrigerate leftovers and takeout foods—and any type of food that should be refrigerated, including pie—within two hours.
- Set your refrigerator at or below 40ºF and the freezer at 0ºF. Check both periodically with an appliance thermometer.
- Thaw safely in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave—never at room temperature. Cook food that has been thawed in cold water or in the microwave immediately.
- Allow enough time to properly thaw food. For example, a 20-pound turkey needs four to five days to thaw completely in the refrigerator.
- Don't taste food that looks or smells questionable. When in doubt, throw it out.
- Leftovers should be used within three to four days, unless frozen.
For more information on Holiday Food Safety:
- View Holidays General Information
- Contact us at the Meat and Poultry Hotline (1-888-674-6854 toll-free)
- Contact us online at AskKaren.gov