The Importance of Food Safety

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has collected data from the year 2000 stating estimates that foodborne illness causes approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year. The stats are based on FoodNet, Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, other surveillance networks and published studies.

There may also be unreported cases. The CDC is currently processing new data to reflect cases of foodborne illness from more recent years.

According to the CDC, “three pathogens, Salmonella, Listeria, and Toxoplasma, are responsible for 1,500 deaths each year, more than 75 percent of those caused by known pathogens, while unknown agents account for the remaining 62 million illnesses, 265,000 hospitalizations, and 3,200 deaths.”

Food Safety Facts

  • There are 1800 strains of salmonella, most of which will cause food poisoning. Millions of Americans annually suffer from food poisoning episodes. Most problems occur as a result of human error.
  • A large majority of food poisonings are related to the pot luck type of event. These usually are from poor temperature controls of foods containing egg or meat products.
  • It was determined in a 1994 study that wooden cutting boards may be a source of contamination and cleaning them with hot soapy water does not always make a significant difference in the bacteria levels. Bleach will do the trick in most instances. Make sure you dilute it and rinse thoroughly. Acrylic cutting boards are the best according to the latest studies.
  • E. coli bacteria may be responsible for 20,000-plus cases of food poisoning each year. For your protection, cook all meat and poultry to an internal temperature of 160 degrees, wash all fruits and vegetables grown in manure and drink only pasteurized milk and cider.
  • It takes four hours for bacteria on melons to start multiplying. Try to eat it within this period. Refrigeration halts the growth or retards it significantly.
  • Harmful bacteria do not stop multiplying unless they are refrigerated below 40 degrees. Most refrigerators rarely hold this temperature.
  • Freezing does not kill bacteria it only stops their growth. The only thing that kills the bacteria is cooking.
  • Food borne illness strikes 80 million Americans yearly. Most are mild cases, however, 9000 are fatal. Most are caused from meat and poultry.
  • Never store wine or spirits in a lead crystal decanter for a long period. They may leach out of the lead. Vinegar dressing may also do the same due to its acidic nature.
  • Reported salmonella food poisoning cases have increased over 40 percent during the last ten years. A good percentage of these cases have been associated with fast food restaurants.
  • Boil all kitchen sponges at least once per week to be sure they are contaminant-free.
  • Never reheat or save infant formula after a child has drunken from it. Bacteria will still remain alive, should be discarded.
  • Never slow cook a turkey overnight at 200 degrees. This gives the bacteria too long a period to multiply.
  • A cooked or raw turkey should never be kept non-refrigerated for more than 45 minutes.
  • Always line your refrigerator drawers with a double piece of paper towel to absorb excess moisture. Moisture leads to mold.
  • If the contents of a can or jar have a funny smell, are moldy or have an off color look, do not eat!
  • Never eat foods directly from a jar or can; saliva may contaminate the contents.
  • Never smell a moldy food; it can cause an allergic reaction.
  • Meats should be kept hot. Use a thermometer to keep the temperature of meats, poultry and pork at 140 degrees.
  • Always keep eggs under refrigeration.
  • Refrigerate foods as soon as possible. Bacterial growth starts very quickly at between 45 degrees and 120 degrees. 
  • Anyone with an infection or cold should be kept away from the kitchen.
  • Never allow your fruits and vegetables to be placed in the same bag with meats. Juices may leak and contaminate the fruit and vegetables.
  • Small areas of mold on solid fruits or vegetables can usually be removed leaving the food still edible. Cut away an extra inch in case the mold has already sent feelers out.
  • Antibiotics should not be taken with food; it slows its absorption and possibly its potency levels.
  • Mayonnaise and salad dressing under normal conditions would not have to be refrigerated after opening. The reason it is recommended is that when you are making a salad, you tend to keep dipping the spoon in for more mayonnaise and leave residues of the salad in the jar.
  • Never cover refrigerator shelves with tin foil. Air should be able to circulate around the foods.
  • Peanut butter should be stored in the refrigerator after opening to keep the fats from becoming rancid.
  • Leftovers that have remained in the refrigerator more than 36 hours should be re-cooked.
  • Never place cooked foods on the same surface that has fresh food on it.
  • Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.
  • Your can opener should be washed after each use. Food left behind may be contaminated after a few days and cause food poisoning. This is one of the most common sources of food poisoning.
  • Consuming a large quantity of natural licorice may cause hypertension, heart enlargement and sodium retention due to the chemicals glycynhizic acid and menthol. Three to four ounces per day over a prolonged period can be harmful.
  • Always strain soups that may contain pieces of bone through a strainer. Place a coarse strainer inside of a fine one for the best results.
  • To avoid the fat from catching fire when broiling meats, place a few pieces of dried bread in the broiler pan to soak up the dripping fat.
  • Never stuff a turkey or other fowl with warm stuffing and leave overnight, even if refrigerated.
  • Do not leave gravy, stuffing or cooked fowl at room temperature for more than 30 to 45 minutes before refrigerating.
  • If turkey or chicken salad is made, wait until the meat is fully cooled before adding any type of salad dressing or mayonnaise.
  • Either keep foods cold or hot and you will reduce the risk of a problem. It is the mid-ranges that cause the most bacteria growth.
  • If mold is seen in jams and jellies (a small spot), scoop it out with a clean spoon, then scoop out a little more with another clean spoon. If the balance tastes fermented, throw it out.
  • Throw out moldy vegetables, especially tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce.
  • A good rule of thumb is just to throw out any food item that contains mold. Cheese may be the only exception, but be sure to cut away at least one-half to one inch away from the moldy area.
  • Foods cooked in aluminum pans that are damaged may absorb the metal, if there are any corroded areas marked by pitting and surrounded by white areas and if the pot is used frequently it may result in high risk of impaired kidney function and behavioral anomalies.
  • When you marinate any meat or poultry, make sure you leave it in the refrigerator while it is marinating.
  • Never place barbecued meats of any type on the same plate that held the raw meat after it has been cooked. This is one of the most common causes of food poisoning when barbecuing. Also, never continue to use the same utensils that touched the raw meat.
  • Use a fresh dish towel after you clean up from handling meats or poultry, then throw it in the wash and do not leave it sit out for further use.

Fish Safety

A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats in fish can counter toe potential neurotoxic effects of mercury. Take advantage of the findings by choosing fish that are high in omega-3 and lower in mercury. These include salmon, anchoives and trout.

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