According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), harmful pathogens are responsible for at least 250 food-borne diseases. Based on its estimates, 48 million people get sick from food poisoning. Around 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die due to consuming food contaminated by harmful microorganisms.
However, food poisoning is highly preventable. Here are some simple steps to follow that work equally well in ordinary times and when things go south.
Raw foods contain various microorganisms, both beneficial and harmful. Avoid mixing raw food items with fresh food in both shopping carts and shopping bags. This segregation should also be continued when raw foods are stored in the refrigerator. They should be kept separate from both foods to be eaten that require no cooking and frozen foods that are thawing well.
Handwashing with soap and water is especially important, especially for individuals who handle food regularly, to avoid contamination. But this should not only be limited to hands – cutting boards, dishes and other implements used in food preparation must also be washed after use. Surfaces should also be cleaned and disinfected after preparing food as they can serve as breeding grounds for harmful bacteria that can contaminate subsequent food items.
Dirt from outside often contains pathogens, and anyone that touches it should clean up prior to eating. This also extends to pets; some animals are known carriers of certain types of bacteria. In an ideal situation, pets should not be allowed near areas where food is prepared.
Bacteria reproduce rapidly at room temperature and in places where there is moisture. Ensure proper ventilation in locations where food is prepared so that air circulates. Wipe down wet areas to deprive pathogens of moisture conducive to them. (Related: Food safety tips: 6 Ways to avoid bacterial infection at home.)
Cross-contamination pertains to the process of disease-causing bacteria from food hopping on to a clean surface. Some examples include putting cooked food back on a plate previous used to hold raw food, and cutting vegetables or fruit on a cutting board previously used to cut meat. Washing chicken before cooking is another example of cross-contamination, as the process splatters Campylobacter and Salmonella bacteria on kitchen counters.
The CDC notes that while anyone can get food poisoning, certain groups of people are more likely to experience serious illness.
Visit CleanFoodWatch.com for more stories about food safety.
Watch the following video to learn how to stop contamination so it doesn’t come back.
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