A Word About Foodborne Illness
The following is an archived post
I’ve unfortunately been plagued with food poisoning recently, not once, but twice, due to food eaten in restaurants. Anyone who has had food poisoning in any form knows just how unpleasant it can be. I was so affected by these incidents that I was inspired to write (and complain) about it and reinforce ways to prevent it.
And I want to emphasize that food safety and foodborne illness are NOT to be taken lightly. As we have seen recently in the news regarding bacterial contamination of ground beef, peanuts and spinach, the everyday activity of eating food can become a life or death situation.
Foodborne illness is sickness caused by consuming foods or beverages contaminated by bacteria, viruses or parasites. Foodborne illness typically results in abdominal cramps, diarrhea and fever. While many symptoms are mild, foodborne illness can lead to severe medical complications and as we know, is even fatal if left untreated.
How can foodborne illness be prevented? Food Safety!
Most cases of food-related illness can be prevented if everyone who handles and prepares food learns how to do so properly, whether a restaurant worker, school foodservice staff or parents. Chefs and cooks go through special training to make sure they know how to handle food safely to prevent illness. To make sure you are taking the same precautions, read through these tips on the basics of food safety.
CLEAN – Wash hands, utensils and surfaces in hot soapy water before and after food preparation, and especially after preparing meat, poultry, eggs or seafood to protect against bacteria. Use a disinfectant or bleach diluted in water to clean surfaces like counters and tabletops. Antibacterial hand soap can provide some added protection, but it does not replace handwashing. Replace sponges often.
SEPARATE – Keep raw meat, poultry, eggs and seafood and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods in and out of the refrigerator; never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, eggs or seafood. Use two cutting boards—one for meat/poultry/fish and one for produce.
COOK – Cook food to the proper internal temperature (this varies for different cuts and types of meat and poultry) and check with a food thermometer. Cook eggs until both the yolk and white are firm.
CHILL – Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within two hours and make sure the refrigerator is set at no higher than 40°F and the freezer at 0°F. Defrost meat/poultry in the refrigerator to prevent bacterial growth.
Many local municipalities post health inspection reports online now. In New York City, grades are required to be posted in the window by the New York City Department of Health. I don’t know about you, but when I see an “A,” I feel much more confident about walking into an establishment than when I see a “C.” The restaurants I believe I contracted food poisoning in didn’t have grades posted in their windows at the times I went, but I wonder what those would be…