Preventing Food Borne Illness in Your Home
Food borne illness, often called "food poisoning" is an illness caused by micro-organisms carried on food to the people who eat that food. It is often characterized by flu like symptoms - nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, however may involve more severe symptoms and can result in death.
Bacteria, commonly found in our environment, are the main cause of food borne illness. However, these bacteria are easily controlled by following four simple steps in food preparation.
1. Keep it Clean - Bacteria can easily spread throughout the kitchen. Wash hands and work surfaces often with hot, soapy water. Change kitchen cloths daily and replace sponges every month.
2. Separate, Dont Cross Contaminate - Cross contamination is the spreading of bacteria from one place to another. Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood, common sources of bacteria, from other foods in your shopping basket and refrigerator. Wash and sanitize hands and utensils after they come in contact with raw meat products. Never place cooked food on an unwashed plate which previously held raw meat products.
3. Cook to Proper Temperatures - Most bacteria can be killed when heated to a high enough temperature. Use a clean cooking thermometer to check the internal temperature of cooked foods. Steaks and roasts should be cooked to at least 145 degrees, ground beef to at least 160 degrees, and poultry to 180 degrees. Fish should be opaque and flake with a fork. Eggs should be cooked until the white and yolk are firm. Egg containing sauces should be cooked to 165 degrees.
4. Chill - Cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria. Set your refrigerator temperature between 35 and 40 degrees. Refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible after serving. Divide large amounts of food into small shallow containers for quick chilling. Defrost frozen foods in the refrigerator, rather than on the counter.