Take a bite out of Food Safety Month with these preparation & cooking tips
By Matt Cimino
Food poisoning gets about 48 million (1 in 6) Americans sick every year. It can affect anybody, and while it is an inconvenience for some, there are others who can be seriously impacted by it. Adults over 65, children under 5, individuals with preexisting conditions and pregnant women are more likely to get sick and experience hospitalizations and severe issues from contaminated food.
Some of the most common causes of food-borne illnesses include:
• Poor personal hygiene
• Cross contamination
• Improper cooking of food
• Improper heating and cooling of foods
Symptoms can range from mild to severe. A lot of it depends on what type of contamination your food has been exposed to, and how widespread it is. Minor symptoms are upset stomach, nausea and cramping, while stronger symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea and fever. Two of the more common food-borne illnesses are E. coli and salmonella.
It is crucial that you drink plenty of fluids if you do get food poisoning. Dehydration is a cause of hospitalizations.
While we all love cooking and eating good food, take some extra time to properly handle everything so that you do not poison yourself or others!
Monongalia County Health Department has temporarily suspended in-house food safety training classes, but food worker and person in charge (PIC) classes are available through the department website. Also, MCHD Environmental Health is in the process of examining safe, socially distanced methods of providing in-person classes again soon.
MCHD’s Food Safety Educator Jennifer Costolo explains many ways to help reduce the chances of getting food poisoning:
Cleaning: Always wash your hands with warm water and soap for a minimum of 20 seconds after handling raw food to avoid cross contamination. Thoroughly clean and sanitize surfaces and utensils as well.
Cooking: Ensure that foods are cooked to proper time and temperature specifications (160 degrees Fahrenheit for ground beef, 165 for poultry to name a few). Maintain proper hot holding temperature (135 degrees and above).
Storage: Store raw animal foods like chicken and beef both below and completely away from ready-to-eat foods. Separate unwashed produce from raw and prepared food. Keep prepared food on top shelves or other separate shelving. Ensure proper cold holding temperatures (41 degrees and below). Store chemicals, cleaners and medicines completely away from food and utensils.
Spotting Contaminated Food: While foodborne pathogens are invisible, scentless and tasteless, spoilage organisms such as molds and yeasts are not. These organisms can change the appearance, consistency, odor and flavor of foods.
Thawing: Always thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave. Bacteria grows rapidly at room temperature.
All of these steps may seem like a complex system, but through practice and mindful cooking you can keep the joy in eating the food you worked so hard to create.