Proper handling can help prevent food poisoning

Bacteria and viruses are the most common causes of food poisoning.

With summertime here and backyard barbecues and family picnics on the horizon, Wade Dishaw, environmental health director at the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department, wants to take the opportunity to reinforce proper food handling.

Just a few simple steps can help prevent foodborne illness.

“Hot, humid weather creates the perfect conditions for the rapid growth of bacteria,” Dishaw said. “Summer also means more people are cooking outside at picnics, barbecues and camping trips, without easy access to refrigeration and hand washing facilities to keep food safe.”

The symptoms and severity of food poisoning vary, depending on which bacteria or virus has contaminated the food.

The bacteria and viruses that cause the most illnesses, hospitalizations, or deaths in the United States include campylobacter, clostridium perfringens, E. coli, listeria, norovirus and salmonella.

Other important bacteria and viruses that cause foodborne illness include bacillus cereus, botulism, hepatitis A, staphylococcus and vibrio species causing vibriosis.

To learn more about how these types of bacteria and viruses can affect you, go to www.foodsafety.gov.

To minimize the risks of foodborne illness, Dishaw recommends these four steps when handling and preparing food:

Step One — Clean

Wash hands and surfaces often to avoid the spread of bacteria.

Wash hands with hot, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before handling food, and after handling raw meats or poultry, using the bathroom, touching pets or changing diapers.

Always wash raw fruits and vegetables in clean water. You cannot tell whether foods carry surface bacteria by the way they look, smell or taste.

Step Two — Separate

Keep raw meats and poultry separate from cooked foods to avoid cross-contamination.

When packing a cooler for an outing, wrap uncooked meats and poultry securely and put them on the bottom to prevent raw juices from dripping onto other foods.

Wash all plates, utensils, and cutting boards that touched or had raw meat or poultry before using them again for cooked foods.

Step Three — Cook

Make sure to kill harmful bacteria by properly cooking food.

Traditional visual cues such as color are not a guarantee that food is safe. Don’t guess! Take a digital instant-read food thermometer along to check when meat and poultry are safe to eat. Cooked foods are safe to eat when internal temperatures are:

— 155 degrees for ground beef or pork meat;

— 165 degrees for leftover food and boned and deboned poultry parts;

— 165 degrees for whole poultry.

Step Four — Chill

Keep cold food cold.

Perishable foods that are normally in the refrigerator — such as luncheon meats, cooked meat, chicken, and potato or pasta salads — must be kept in an insulated cooler with freezer packs or blocks of ice to keep the temperature at or below 41 degrees.

Put leftovers back in the cooler as soon as you are finished eating.

The simple rule is: When in doubt, throw it out.

­– The Iron

Mountain Daily News


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