One in six Americans is affected by food poisoning each year, resulting in an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 preventable deaths.
In most people the symptoms of food poisoning, or foodborne illness, usually aren’t long-lasting and typically go away without medical treatment. But foodborne illness can be severe, even life-threatening, especially for those most at risk such as older adults, infants, pregnant women, and those with weakened their immune systems.
It is up to all of us to do our part to make food safety a priority, and help prevent forborne illness – for ourselves and for our loved ones. So this year as you are making plans and setting goals for the New Year, remember to Resolve to Be Food Safe in 2013.
Here are four easy-to-stick-to New Year’s resolutions to get you started
Resolve to wash your hands before, during and after handling food. (clean)
Handwashing has the potential to save more lives than any single medical intervention. Wet your hands with clean running water, apply soap, lather and scrub your hands well for at least 20 seconds, and air dry or use a clean paper towel.
Resolve to use two cutting boards to help avoid cross-contamination. (separate)
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 avoids contamination of the raw foods by the juices from the ones to be cooked.
Resolve to get a food thermometer, if you don’t have one. (cook)
Only a food thermometer can make sure meat, poultry, fish, and casseroles are cooked to a safe internal temperature—hot enough to kill any germs that may be present.
Resolve to use an appliance thermometer to be sure your refrigerator is at or below 40ºF. (chill)
Bacteria multiply rapidly between 40ºF and 140ºF. 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 on how to keep food safe in the New Year, check out these resources:
- Long-Term Effects of Food Poisoning
- Types of Food Thermometers
- Separate, Don’t Cross-Contaminate
- Safe Food Handling: What You Need to Know
- 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.
The trend of swapping disposable grocery bags for cloth and plastic-lined reusable bags has become an increasingly popular “green” alternative. Reusable bags reduce waste, but how safe are they for our health?
The fabric or materials in reusable grocery bags can get contaminated with germs like Salmonella or E. coli from food or other items. These germs could then cross-contaminate other food or items we carry in the reusable bag and make us sick.
If you use reusable grocery bags, here are some simple steps that you can follow to reduce cross-contamination and keep yourself and your family safe from germs.
Wash reusable grocery bags often.
- Cloth reusable bags should be washed in a washing machine using laundry detergent and dried in the dryer or air-dried.
- Plastic-lined reusable bags should be scrubbed using hot water and soap and air-dried.
- Check that both cloth and plastic-lined reusable bags are completely dry before storing them.
Always put raw meats into a disposable plastic bag before putting them in a reusable bag.
- A disposable plastic bag helps contain any juices that drip off of raw meat packages, which can touch other foods and contaminate them. Disposable plastic bags are usually available in the raw meat or produce areas of your store.
- Throw away disposable plastic bags used for raw meat immediately after use. Never reuse bags that contained raw meat or poultry.
Keep meats, fresh produce, and ready-to-eat foods separated.
- Use separate bags dedicated for meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, and ready-to-eat foods. It’s also a good idea to keep these foods separated in your shopping cart, at the checkout line on the conveyor belt, and at home. This will help reduce cross-contamination.
- Remember that cold food needs to be refrigerated within two hours of leaving the store or market. Cold food should be refrigerated within one hour when temperatures outside are above 90 degrees.
Store reusable bags at home in a cool, dry place, not in the car.
- Store reusable bags in a cool, dry place, such as in your home or in the garage. Higher temperatures, like those inside of a car or a car’s trunk, can cause germs like Salmonella bacteria to grow faster.
- Bags used for groceries should be used only for food. Don’t carry items such as baby bottles, toys, gym clothes, and other items in the same reusable bags that you take to the grocery store.
These simple steps will help you to reduce cross-contamination, and help keep you and your family safe from harmful bacteria.
- Call the Hotline toll-free at 1-888-674-6854.
- Visit us online at AskKaren.gov (PregunteleaKaren.gov for questions in Spanish).
- Please continue the discussion on our FoodSafety.gov Facebook page.
The holidays often mean family, fun, and food. But beware – bacteria can lurk in holiday buffet goodies and cause foodborne illness. Follow these guidelines for group platters to protect your guests from harmful foodborne bacteria.
Keep HOT foods HOT and COLD foods COLD.
Bacteria can double every 20 minutes in food at room temperature. It’s important to keep hot foods at 140 °F with slow cookers or chafing dishes. Keep cold foods at 40 °F or colder by putting them in dishes nested in ice.
Remember the two-hour rule.
Don’t leave perishable food at room temperature for more than two hours, or bacteria can start to grow. If you’ve lost track of time and can’t remember how long that macaroni salad has been on the buffet, remember: when in doubt, throw it out! Your guests will appreciate it.
Learn the Dos & Don’ts for your holiday favorites.
Now that you have a couple of key guidelines to help keep your holiday buffet safe, here are some common dishes that might make an appearance on your party table and tips for how to keep them safe from uninvited guests.
It’s delicious, it’s creamy, and it can contain Salmonella if raw or undercooked eggs are part of the ingredient list. If you’re making eggnog from scratch, follow these steps for “eggstra” safe ‘nog.
- Do: Use only pasteurized eggs or egg products in the egg base.
Pasteurization kills harmful bacteria.
- Do: Heat the egg base to 160°F to kill all bacteria.
To keep the eggs runny (and delicious), add milk or sugar to the base. Check out the Holiday Eggnog recipe from USDA for easy and safe eggnog instructions.
- Don’t: Rely on alcohol to kill bacteria.
Adding rum or other alcohol to your eggnog may not kill all the harmful bacteria. That’s why using pasteurized eggs and heating the egg base are so important.
From glazed ham to ham salad, this meat can appear on the buffet table in many forms. It’s also a common culprit of foodborne illness. Here are a few tips to keep your ham and ham dishes safe.
- Do: Pay attention to the label.
Some hams are ready to eat and others must be cooked first. Hams that must be cooked have cooking instructions on the label.
- Do: Store your ham in the refrigerator.
Use ham slices within four days and whole ham within a week.
- Do: Cook your ham to a safe temperature.
Take a look at our Ham Cooking Chart to find out how to cook your ham based on its cut and weight.
Deli meats, or cold cuts, are a popular staple on holiday buffets. But deli meats can harbor Listeria, bacteria that can be especially dangerous to pregnant women and their unborn babies.
- Do: Avoid deli meats if you’re pregnant.
If you absolutely must have deli meats, heat them until they are steaming hot.
- Do: Store deli meats in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat them.
Use deli-sliced meats within three to five days of buying them, even if the best-before date is later.
- Do Keep fluid from deli meat packages away from other foods, utensils, or food prep surfaces.
Foodsafety.gov wishes you and your family a safe and happy holiday season. For more information on Holiday Food Safety, view our Holiday General Information page.
If you have any other questions about buffets, group platters, or food safety in general contact us at the Hotline (1-888-674-6854 toll-free) or online at AskKaren.gov (PregunteleaKaren.gov for questions in Spanish)