Recalls mitigate known safety risks, but there are many things you can do on your own to promote food safety and prevent food borne illness.
In 2013, FoodNet found 19,162 confirmed cases of infection due to foodborne illness, which resulted in 4,276 hospitalizations, and 88 deaths. While recalls are a generally effective way to mitigate known risks of foodborne illness, storing and cleaning your food properly go much further in the way of prevention. Practicing smart food safety at home can keep your family healthy, happy, and out of the hospital.
In honor of National Food Safety Education Month, celebrated every year during the month of September, we here at DailyRecall wanted to provide you with some useful tips to practice food safety. By following these tips, you can reduce your chances of getting sick, even if a recall hasn’t been issued yet.
Keeping Produce Safe
You know to only buy attractive produce, keeping away from bruised or damaged goods. You know to only buy cut produce if it’s kept in a chilled area of the store. But do you know what to do with that produce after you get home?
When storing your fresh produce, you should keep it in the refrigerator at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. If you don’t know the temperature in your fridge, you can easily pick up a refrigerator/freezer thermometer at any number of retailers, including Target, Amazon, or Home Depot.
You should also avoid cross-contamination, keeping your meats in a separate storage area. As you prepare your food, you can further avoid cross-contamination by being sure that all cutting boards, dishes and utensils are thoroughly washed between cutting or cooking meat, and cutting or cooking vegetables.
Before you prepare vegetables for cooking or serving, they should be washed thoroughly. Cut away any bruises or imperfections, and then wash under running water at your sink. Even if you plan on peeling your produce, it should still be washed first. Bacteria can be transferred onto your knife or peeler, infecting the fruit inside, should you choose not to do so. Finally, dry your produce with a clean towel. This removes lingering chances for bacteria to stick around.
Keeping Meat Safe
Chicken is known to commonly spread salmonella, and beef is notorious for listeria. When you’re handling these raw meats, it’s important to be hyperconscious of chances of contamination.
It all starts at the grocery store. Be sure you, or the person bagging your food, keeps meats separate from all other food items. When you bring it home, don’t make another stop; meats need to be in the refrigerator or freezer within two hours of picking them up from the meat department.
When thawing meat from the freezer, the safest route is to thaw in the refrigerator. The process will take about one day for every five pounds of meat you have, so planning ahead is essential. Generally, meat can last in the fridge one to two days without additional risk for contamination, with the exception of red meats, which can last three to five days.
When you finally get to preparing your meal, be sure to wash your hands incessantly. Do so before and after handling raw meat. You should also wash all dishes and utensils that come into contact with the meat or its juices before using them for anything else.
Keeping Non-Refrigerated Items Safe
Even if food doesn’t go in the fridge, there are some basic food safety tips you should be following. Be sure to store perishables, such as onions or potatoes, in a cool, dry place. Many people store under the sink, which is ill-advised for two reasons. The first is that the sink could leak, making it a wet or humid environment. The second is that people tend to also keep household cleaners under the sink, making the environment poisonous.
To make sure your canned goods are safe to consume, look for visible damage. This includes swelling, leaking, holes, rust, or extremely deep dents. If you find any of these symptoms, and the item is recently purchased, you can either take it back to the store for a refund or exchange, or get in touch with the FDA to see if this is a widespread problem that requires a recall.
How Does Your Home Stack Up for Food Safety?
Now that you know what to do, go through your home to make sure you’re following proper food safety protocol. If not, change your behaviors immediately to avoid illness in your home.
How did your habits stack up against our food safety tips? We’d love to hear your answers in the comments.