7 Steps to Protect Yourself from Foodborne Illness

Food borne illness is easy to prevent with the right knowledge. Here’s how you can protect yourself and your family from foodborne illness.

1. Identify Sources of Contamination

Identify any sources of food contamination in your home. Food contaminants include bacteria, parasites and viruses, and they might exist in your trash can, toilet or cat litter boxes. While you may not be able to eliminate these things in your home, you can keep them and their surrounding areas as clean as possible and wash your hands thoroughly after having contact with them.

2. Wash Your Hands

The easiest way to prevent food contamination by bacteria, viruses and parasites is to keep your hands clean. Wash your hands after going to the bathroom, handling pets, doing yard work or any other activity that gets your hands dirty. Wash your hands after taking out trash or compost or cleaning a dirty cat litter. Always wash your hands before preparing food.

3. Store Raw Foods Properly

Raw meats may contain bacteria and other pathogens that can cause food contamination. These bacteria and pathogens are usually killed during the cooking process, but while the meat remains raw, it can contaminate surfaces in your kitchen and other food in your refrigerator. Store raw meat on the bottom shelf to prevent its juices from dripping onto food below. Use or freeze raw meat within three days of its purchase.

When preparing raw meat, try to minimize the number of surfaces it touches, and try to touch as few surfaces as possible with your hands while you’re handling raw meat (you can spread contaminants from the meat juice on your hands to doorknobs and other surfaces by touching them). Don’t allow raw meat to come into direct contact with fruits, vegetables or other foods that you plan to eat raw. Always wash your hands after handling raw meat, and before you handle anything else.

4. Cook Meat Properly

Improperly cooked meat is the number one cause of food borne illness. The only meat you may safely eat rare is beef, though you still run a small risk of food borne illness. Thoroughly cook all chicken, pork, fish and seafood to kill any bacteria, viruses or other contaminants present in the meat.

5. Clean Vegetables and Fruits

Vegetables and fruits are just as likely as raw meats to be contaminated with bacteria or viruses. Always wash and rinse fruits and vegetables before eating them, especially if you’re eating them raw. Store fruits and vegetables properly to prevent contamination with bacteria and viruses.

6. Store Leftovers Appropriately

Store your leftovers properly by putting them into small containers that will allow the food to cool rapidly (large containers allow food to remain warm for much longer after you put it in the refrigerator, and, in order to avoid contamination, your food needs to cool to refrigeration temperature as fast as possible). Don’t allow leftovers to reach room temperature; refrigerate them right away. 

7. Keep Foods at an Appropriate Serving Temperature

During serving, hot foods should be kept at 160 degrees F and cold foods at no more than 41 degrees F. 


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