Posts Tagged ‘Foodborne illness’

A former student said, “I learned a lot about sanitation from you.”

I gave a puzzled look and said, “But I didn’t teach that course to your class.”

“Oh, yes you did. Every time we walked into that kitchen you said, ‘Wash your hands.’”

True. I didn’t teach the course, but I did teach the practice. Clean hands are important, but even that isn’t enough to protect your family from foodborne illnesses.  Germs accumulate on unsuspecting surfaces. While you may scrub your sink and clean the counters—even sanitize them, germs lurk in less obvious places.

The non-profit science organization, NSF International, recruited twenty families to check fourteen kitchen items for four types of microorganisms related to foodborne illness: E coli, salmonella, yeast and mold, and listeria. All items tested positive for yeast and mold. E. coli and salmonella were found in thirty-six percent of all items, and listeria was present in fourteen percent of the items tested.

Items having the most pathogens, in order of frequency, included:

  • Refrigerator water dispenser. That handy gadget frequently handled and rarely cleaned, ranked number one on the naughty chart of germ haven. Dispensers may develop mold and yeast that can cause allergic reactions and respiratory ailments.
  • Rubber spatulas. Unless molded into one piece, spatulas will harbor germs under the scraper blade. Incidences of E. coli, and yeast and mold have been reported. Take apart and clean in the dishwasher or scrub with hot soapy water.
  • Blender gaskets. Many believe the upper jar container is adequately cleaned when put into the dishwasher without taking apart. Not so. The blade and gasket may harbor salmonella, E. coli, and yeast and mold that cake around and under the blade. For effective sanitation, remove the blade and gasket and scrub with hot soapy water or place individual pieces into the dishwasher.
  • Refrigerator vegetable compartment. Produce can transmit  bugs. Mold and yeast accumulate rapidly from deteriorating fruits and vegetables. Salmonella, listeria (think cantaloupe) may be present on fresh produce. Clean the compartment monthly or more often if needed.
  • Refrigerator ice dispenser. These are especially susceptible to yeast and mold and can be harmful for those with allergies. At least monthly turn off the ice maker, empty the ice from the ice bin, and wash the bin with dish soap and warm water. Occasionally wash the system with vinegar, rinse thorough, and toss the first ice cubes.
  • Refrigerator meat compartment. Fresh meats can be disasters waiting to happen. They are prone to E. coli, salmonella, plus yeast and molds. Keep meats away from other foods to prevent contamination. For both fruit and vegetable compartments and meat compartments, wash with warm water with one to two tablespoons baking soda per gallon of water.

Other likely culprits to spread foodborne illnesses include can openers and food storage containers with rubber seals. Place in the dishwasher or clean thoroughly with hot soapy water after using.

Remember the areas in your kitchen that often get less attention yet may hide pathogens. Keep everyone safe with a little precaution and extra cleaning effort. Don’t make your family sick.

For a great visual see http://www.nsf.org/consumer/newsroom/pdf/where_germs_are_hiding_infographic.pdf

For more information see http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57576902/where-are-germs-hiding-in-your-kitchen-study-finds-surprising-results/

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It almost seems un-American not to cook out on July 4th. Families throughout the nation celebrate this annual event with grills blazing, whether at a community event, a favorite park, or in their own backyard.

This happy time can result in unpleasant food poisoning unless foods are handled carefully. Follow these tips adapted from articles by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) to keep foods safe.

  • Wash, Wash, Wash. Sure, you know to wash your hands before eating. But extend that washing to many times in food preparation to prevent cross contamination, especially when handling uncooked meats. Wash any surfaces and utensils that come in contact with raw meats. That includes those tongs used to transfer raw portions to the grill and back to serving dishes or plates.
  • Check Temperatures. Looks can deceive when it comes to doneness. Use a meat thermometer to make sure meat cooks to a safe temperature. Hamburger should show an internal reading of 160oF before serving to family and guests.
  • Hold Foods at Safe Temperatures. Even in optimum conditions, prepared foods should not stay out more than two hours. With a July heat-wave, that time drops to one hour or less. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold until serving time, either in your refrigerator and warming oven at home or in separate insulated containers when away from home.
  • Store Leftovers Appropriately. Place foods in airtight, shallow containers. Put uncooked meats in the lower part of the refrigerator and store other foods above.

Follow these guides to assure a food-safe and festive holiday. God bless America!

To see AND articles about keeping food safe, check the following sites.



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I retrieved from the back recesses of my refrigerator a flavored yogurt mingled among other recently purchased cartons. My chosen yogurt had expired many months earlier. Even as we attempt to keep and eat safe food, occasionally some item gets missed.

September is National Food Safety Education Month. This marks the seventeenth year for the month-long campaign to increase food-safety awareness. Although focused on restaurants and the foodservice industry, the same safe practices apply at home.

Food Insight1, reported that those aged twenty to twenty-nine had the safest food preparation practices. Those safe practices peaked at mid-life and diminished with age. The dissimilarities of older adults required targeting education to specific populations, namely those with underlying chronic illnesses and those living alone who prepared their own food.

After a major E.coli outbreak in 1993, food-handling habits for young people seemed to improve when exposed to food-safety messages at school. Teaching young and school-aged children to wash their hands decreased chances of ingesting harmful bacteria. As this group grew to young adults and started families, they recognized the health impact of contaminated food. Positive behavioral changes protected their children. Even so, the Center for Disease Control reported a high rate of hospitalizations of very young children (under age three) due to foodborne infections.

Food Insight2 also suggested four areas for home inspections and practices:

  • Proper Food Handling: Frequent hand washing lowers the spread of bacteria.
  • Clean and Sanitized Surfaces: To reduce the risk of cross-contamination, use separate cutting boards for raw meats and ready-to-eat foods such as fruits, vegetables, and breads. Wash and sanitize surfaces before and after preparation, especially meats.
  • Storage of Food: Perishable leftover foods need refrigerating within two hours. Label containers with the contents and date. Discard after three to four days.
  • Utensils and Equipment: Meats cooked to appropriate internal temperatures as determined by a meat thermometer lessen risks for foodborne illnesses.

Keep you and your family safe from tainted foods. Follow these simple rules to protect your household against foods that may cause illness.

1 http://www.foodinsight.org/Newsletter/Detail.aspx?topic=Partnership

 2 http://www.foodinsight.org/Newsletter/Detail.aspx?topic=National_Food_Safety_Education_Month

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Shortly after the deadly foodborne illness outbreak in Europe, I attended a catered lunch at a conference. As I bit into my sandwich, I detected the distinct crunch and flavor of sprouts. Was this sandwich safe?

News was abuzz about the European outbreak—and rightfully so. Researchers attributed the cause of death for more than forty people to Escherichia coli (E.coli) in bean sprouts. The bacteria infected at least four U.S. travelers to Germany and caused the death of an elderly Arizona man.

E. coli and Salmonella outbreaks occur more often throughout the world than you may think. Many cases go undiagnosed because symptoms mimic other health problems. Typical signs include fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. Symptoms may occur twelve to seventy-two hours after ingestion of the tainted food and last from four to seven days. If the bacteria spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and other body sites, death can result unless promptly and appropriately treated. Those most susceptible are seniors, young children, and individuals with compromised immune systems.

Why are sprouts the culprit? Sprouts grow in a warm, humid environment, the same ideal conditions needed for bacterial growth. Unlike other raw fruits and vegetables, washing sprouts before eating may not help. Bacteria can cling to the surface of sprout seeds and grow inside the sprouts as well as outside.

Should you eat sprouts? Although the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) established guidelines for suppliers of sprouts, safety is not guaranteed, and they remain potentially hazardous. In 2009 and earlier years, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended consumers avoid raw sprouts. Consuming organically grown sprouts is even more risky. Researchers linked the contaminated sprouts in Europe to an organic farm in Germany. To elude this foodborne illness stay away from uncooked sprouts. Better yet, choose other healthy foods with less contamination risk.

 Reference: CDC Median Relations:
Sprouts: Not a Healthy Food for Everyone. http://www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/r990809.htm

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As the holiday season approaches, we busy ourselves with extra tasks including food preparation. None of us would intentionally harm others through improper handling of food—but it happens. Careful attention helps assure safe food. The web site, www.foodsafety.gov, provides guidelines to follow for purchasing, preparing, and serving food. Some guidelines are basic: wash hands often, store foods properly, and pay attention to proper handling and cooking of foods, especially meats.

The “Fight Bac” brochure, www.fightbac.org, explains four steps to food safety:  Clean—wash hands, cutting boards, etc. frequently; Separate—avoid cross-contamination; Cook—use cooking temperature guides; Chill—refrigerate promptly.

The “rule of four” reduces possibilities of food spoilage.

  • Thaw, prepare, cook, and reheat frozen items, within four hours for all procedures.
  • Store cold foods below 40oF.  Keep hot foods above 140oF.
  • Limit the time foods stay in the optimum bacterial growth danger zone (40oF to 140oF). Cool and refrigerate or freeze leftovers within four hours.  
  • Use refrigerated leftover foods and highly perishable foods such as fresh meats within four days.

Also, remember to cook turkeys to an internal temperature of 160oF, fresh hams, 160oF, and precooked hams, 140oF.

Keep family and friends safe this holiday season. Following these above suggestions helps prevent foodborne illness. Enjoy a food-safe Thanksgiving.

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