Father’s Day is right around the corner! If you’re planning to take dad out to celebrate, keep these things in mind when choosing the right restaurant for you and your family.
Food Safety Rules
The food vendors in your community, like restaurants, delis, grocery stores, and others, must follow local food safety rules. These rules are set by your city, county, district, or state. Each community may have the same or slightly different food safety rules and requirements for food vendors. All food safety rules have similar requirements about
- Safe source: Food or food ingredients come from a safe source.
- Safe temperature: Food is held at the correct cold or hot holding temperatures.
- Proper cooking: Food is cooked properly, especially foods such as meat, poultry, and pork.
- Proper handling: Food is handled to prevent cross-contamination from the environment (for example, common work areas or common utensils).
- Proper hand washing: Food handlers know how to prevent contamination, especially food handlers who may be sick with vomiting or diarrhea.
One of the ways food safety rules protect the public’s health is through food vendor inspections. Each community’s rules may differ on
- How often food vendor inspections are conducted.
- The type of inspection form used.
- The type of grading or scoring system used to rate the safety of food vendors.
The system to rate food vendors may be a numerical score, a letter-grade score (A, B, C), or a pass/fail rating. These scores are usually shared with the public in some way, including
- Food vendor publicly posts their full inspection reports, showing all violations and inspector notes as well as the rating.
- Food vendor publicly posts only their rating and not the full inspection report.
- Food safety regulatory agency posts food vendors’ full inspection reports along with the rating on the Internet.
- Food safety regulatory agency posts only food vendors’ ratings on the Internet.
Talk to your local food safety regulators to find out whether food vendors in your area must display inspection information and what information they must display. You can find the contact information for your local food safety regulators using the Directory of State and Local Officials website. If you can’t find a food vendor’s score or inspection report, ask the manager if you can see the most recent report.
When speaking to your local food regulatory agency about the inspection report for a particular vendor, ask if they have had any recent food safety rule violations for
- Unsafe food source.
- Improper hot-holding or cold-holding of food.
- Improperly cooked food.
- Cross contamination.
- Contamination by sick workers.
Reporting Foodborne Illness
Most people don’t report their illness. Public health officials need to know about illnesses that may be caused by food so foodborne outbreaks can be identified and stopped as quickly as possible.
Report your illness to your local food safety regulator if you think a meal from a food vendor made you sick. It is especially important to report illnesses when more than one person gets sick after eating the same meal.
For More Information
- Identify the local agency responsible for restaurant inspection in your area on the Directory of State and Local Officials website (Association of Food and Drug Officials)
- Read plain language summaries of restaurant food safety studies (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Environmental Health Specialists Network)
Stephanie strived to take care of herself and her unborn baby. As an ultrasound technologist working with high-risk pregnancies, Stephanie knew more than most what could go wrong during a pregnancy. She knew the risks of Listeria--a germ that can cause food poisoning or worse--after seeing its damaging effects firsthand while working at the hospital. Unfortunately, Stephanie developed listeriosis, an infection caused by eating Listeria-tainted food. Her beautiful son, Michael, delivered brain dead and unable to breathe on his own, died two days later--another casualty of Listeria food poisoning.
Sometimes foods we love and count on for good health are contaminated with germs that cause illness and can be deadly for certain people.
Rare but Deadly
Although Listeria is common in the environment, it rarely causes listeriosis. About 1,600 people in the United States get sick from Listeria each year. While the infection is rare, in 2011, a new source—cantaloupes contaminated with Listeria—caused one of the deadliest foodborne outbreaks in the US.
Most at Risk
Listeria, the third leading cause of death from food poisoning, targets pregnant women and their babies, people with weakened immune systems, and those 65 years or older. Listeria hits these groups the hardest, accounting for at least 90 percent of reported Listeria infections and resulting in higher rates of hospitalization and death than most other foodborne bacteria.
- Pregnant women, fetuses, and newborn infants
Listeria can pass from a pregnant woman to her fetus or newborn. It can cause miscarriage and still birth; in newborns it can cause bloodstream infection, meningitis, or death. The risk for pregnant women is ten times higher than for the general population. For Hispanic pregnant women, the risk is 24 times higher. More consumption of Mexican-style soft cheese, like queso fresco, may explain the higher rates among Hispanics.
Listeria Outbreak: Queso fresco (a type of soft cheese) sickened 142 people, killed 10 newborns and 18 adults, and caused 20 miscarriages.
- People with weakened immune systems
A weak immune system increases the risk of Listeria infection. Many illnesses can weaken the immune system, including different kinds of cancer, HIV/AIDS, kidney and liver disease. In addition, many medicines can weaken the immune system, including steroids, cancer chemotherapy, and drugs to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. Listeria infection occurs more often in this group than in people with strong immune systems.
Listeria Outbreak: Pre-cut celery in chicken salad served at hospitals sickened 10 people who had other serious health problems. Five of them died as a result.
- Adults 65 years or older
Listeria can spread through the bloodstream to cause meningitis and often kills. The risk for those 65 years or older is four times higher than for the general population.
Listeria Outbreak: Contaminated whole cantaloupes sickened 147 people in 28 states and caused one of the deadliest foodborne outbreaks in the US. There were 33 deaths, mostly in adults over 65, reported during the outbreak.
What Can You Do?
We have made some progress against Listeria. However, we can do more to protect those at higher risk for food poisoning and make food safer for everyone. People at higher risk and those who cook for them can reduce the threat of listeriosis by following these food safety tips.
- Learn which foods are risky and do not eat these foods.
- Do not drink raw (unpasteurized) milk or eat soft cheeses made from it.
- Be aware that Mexican-style cheeses made from pasteurized milk, such as queso fresco, likely contaminated during cheese-making, have caused Listeria infections.
- Heat deli meats and hot dogs until steaming hot before eating.
- Avoid refrigerated smoked seafood unless it is in a cooked dish, such as a casserole.
- Use ready-to-eat, refrigerated foods as soon as possible. The longer they are stored in the refrigerator, the more chance Listeria has to grow.
- Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours in shallow covered containers and use within 3-4 days.
- Be careful to avoid cross-contamination in the refrigerator or other places in the kitchen.
- Use a thermometer to make sure your refrigerator is 40°F or lower and your freezer is 0°F or lower.
CDC wants to thank Stephanie and her family and the STOP organization for providing public awareness about those impacted by food poisoning.
For more information about Listeria, who is most at risk, and tips for preventing food poisoning from Listeria and other foodborne bacteria, visit:
- Listeriosis (CDC)
General information on diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and lessons from outbreaks.
- Vital Signs: Recipe for Food Safety: Protecting people from deadly Listeria food poisoning (CDC)
Recent data and calls to action on Listeria food poisoning and its impact on vulnerable populations.
- Listeria monocytogenes (USDA)
General information plus directives and notices, compliance guidelines, and more.
- Education materials for At Risk People (CDC, FDA, USDA)
- Foodsafety.gov/ Listeria
- Special Handling for Ready-to-Eat, Refrigerated Foods: Reducing the Risks of Foodborne Listeria (FDA)
Dana L. Pitts is the Associate Director of Communications in the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases at the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases of the CDC.
You’re out on the boat at last, and looking forward to catchin’ some rays and maybe even some fish. The last thing you need is food poisoning.
But like a lot of boaters, you could be taking chances. Too much sun on a hot day can make perishable food dangerous.
Perishable food and your “catch” must be handled with care. Mishandled food can become contaminated with bacteria and cause food poisoning.
- Perishables, like lunch meats, cooked chicken and potato or pasta salads, should be kept cold in a cooler with ice.
- Pack your cooler with several inches of ice or use frozen gel packs.
- Store food in water-tight containers to prevent contact with melting ice.
- Keep the cooler out of the sun, covered, if possible, for further insulation.
- Not all foods need refrigeration. Good non-perishables for boat trips are fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, trail mix, canned meat spreads and yes, peanut butter and jelly. Once canned meats have been opened, keep them in the cooler.
- If you don’t have a cooler try freezing sandwiches for your trip. Use coarse-textured bread that will resist getting soggy when thawed and take mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato with you to add when you’re ready to eat.
- If you bring a cooler, keep it closed as much as possible and store drinks in a second cooler.
Put perishables back on ice as soon as possible after eating. Don’t let food sit out while you fish or swim. Food sitting out of refrigeration for more than 2 hours is not safe to eat. At 90 degrees or above, food should not sit out over 1 hour. At high temperatures food spoils quickly. If you have any doubts, throw it out!
If you’re planning to fish, check with your fish and game agency or state health department to see where you can fish safely, then follow these guidelines.
- Scale, gut, and clean fish as soon as they're caught.
- Live fish can be kept on stringers or in live wells, as long as they have enough water and enough room to move and breathe.
- Wrap fish, both whole and cleaned, in water-tight plastic and store on ice.
- Keep 3 to 4 inches of ice on the bottom of the cooler. Alternate layers of fish and ice.
- Store the cooler out of the sun and cover with a blanket.
- Once home, eat fresh fish within 1 to 2 days or freeze them. For top quality, use frozen fish within 3 to 6 months.
- Crabs, lobsters, and other shellfish must be kept alive until cooked.
- Store in live wells or out of water in a bushel or laundry basket under wet burlap or seaweed.
- Live oysters should be cooked within 7 to 10 days.
- Live mussels and clams should be cooked within 4 to 5 days.
- Eating raw shellfish is extremely dangerous. People with liver disorders or weakened immune systems are especially at risk.
For more seafood safety information including a video, visit us at FoodSafety.gov.