Serving healthy foods safely can be accomplished by following a few simple guidelines. The importance of following those rules is exemplified by the fact that an estimated 48 million people in the U. S. are diagnosed with food poisoning annually. To highlight the subject further, recent news warned of over 300 cases of food poisoning and three deaths as the result of cucumbers bearing Salmonella that were imported from Mexico. So we can’t let down our guard.
Most food poisoning comes from bacteria or viruses, but it can also stem from parasites, mold, toxins, contaminants and allergens such as nuts, milk, eggs or gluten. Contaminated food often results in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and cramps, but it can also result in kidney failure, chronic arthritis, brain and nerve damage or even death. Those at greatest risk include pregnant women, older adults, individuals with chronic illnesses or depressed immune systems, and children under the age of five because their immune systems are still developing and because their stomachs produce less stomach acid which helps to destroy toxic bacteria.
At the same time, we can serve food to our families safely by following a few simple guidelines. Begin by washing hands before handling any food. Be sure all utensils are clean at the start as well. Cutting instruments, cutting boards and other utensils must be cleaned thoroughly with soap and water after working with any food item and before handling the second food item. So, when you finish cutting the raw chicken, wash everything before cutting the vegetables, etc. Likewise, all fruits and vegetables should be washed with a scrub brush before cutting them. This is especially true with melons and firm fruits like an apple.
Store foods in a refrigerator at temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and below 32 degrees Fahrenheit in a freezer. Don’t just go by the machine setting.;Use a thermometer to measure the actual temperature to be sure.;Keep perishable food items in the refrigerator until served, and then leave them out no more than two hours.;Foods that lose cooling or freezing capability for more than two hours (due to machine failure or power outage for example) usually need to be destroyed. Please refer to the food safety charts at the websites for the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Store raw meats, fish and poultry separate from other foods. Likewise, store ready-to-e at foods separately from other foods to prevent contamination.
Always cook foods to the proper temperatures. Foods should reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit as a general rule. Again, please refer to the charts provided by both the government sites.
While proper food safety requires a little attention to detail at first, continued practice will soon make them habits that will allow you to serve healthy foods safely to your family.