Food Safety Feature Articles
Food safety thrives when you focus on five
September is National Food Safety Education Month, an annual observance to focus attention on the importance of safe food handling and preparation in both home and commercial kitchens. Although this topic is highlighted in September, the information and tips in this article are important year-round. This year’s theme, “Food Safety Thrives When You Focus on Five,” works to increase public awareness of the invisible cause of foodborne illness — microorganisms that may lead to unsafe food when five steps are not followed.
“We are encouraging consumers and foodservice managers to apply five basic food safety procedures to help prevent foodborne illness in the home or foodservice industry,” said Lynda Johnson, R.D., nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
The national food safety campaign emphasizes these five areas to reduce risk for foodborne illness:
- Avoid purchasing food from unsafe sources. Food service managers, as well as consumers, should always be sure that food suppliers are safe and meet all the requirements for food safety in terms of food storage and handling.
- Keep it clean. Wash work surfaces carefully before and after food preparation. Use hot, soapy water for cutting boards, utensils and cookware, and rinse well. Keep nonfood items like mail, newspapers and purses off the counter. Change towels and dish cloths often, and wash in the hot cycle of your washing machine. Damp dish cloths and sponges are perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Sterilize sponges by rinsing and microwaving for about two minutes while still wet. Be careful — the sponge will be hot.
- Separate, don’t cross contaminate. Cross contamination is the transfer of harmful bacteria to food from other foods, cutting boards and utensils. One example of cross contamination would be cutting meat or poultry on a cutting board and then slicing vegetables for a salad on the same board without washing it between uses. Another example is using the same platter to take raw hamburgers to the grill and cooked burgers from the grill.
- Don’t be risky with time and temperature when preparing and storing food. Cook food until safe temperatures are reached. Using a food thermometer is the only way to tell if food has reached a high enough temperature to destroy harmful bacteria. Food thermometers measure internal temperatures of meats, hamburgers, meatloafs, casseroles or any combination dishes to ensure that temperatures have been reached to destroy harmful bacteria like E.Coli and Salmonella. Although hamburgers may appear to be brown in the middle, this does not guarantee that a safe temperature has been reached. It’s also important to refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within two hours of purchase or preparation. Bacteria grow most rapidly in the unsafe temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees F. Use a thermometer to regularly check to determine if the refrigerator temperature is 40 degrees F or below. Always thaw food in the refrigerator, not on the counter.
- Practicing personal hygiene is essential to food safety. Food industry employees should receive training on proper hand washing and always wear plastic gloves when handling food. Consumers should also take adequate time to wash hands and practice proper hygiene when preparing food. Many don’t realize that most foodborne illness occurs because of improper handling or cooking in the home.
Last update: Friday, December 04, 2009