Tips for Preventing Food Related Illness

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1. Wash.
Always wash hands in hot, soapy water before handling, preparing or serving food and after using the bathroom.
Always wash cutting boards, utensils and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item.
Use paper towels instead of cloth towels to dry hands and clean up surfaces. Cloth towels may harbor bacteria, thereby spreading it to hands and surfaces.

2. Don’t cross-contaminate.
· Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other food in the grocery cart.
· Store raw meats, poultry and seafood in the bottom of the refrigerator so that juices from the meats don't leak onto other foods.
· Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat.
· Cross-contamination spreads bacteria from one food to another.

3. Cook thoroughly.
Cook roasts and steaks to at least 145ºF.
Cook ground beef to at least 160ºF. Don't eat ground beef that is still pink inside.
Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm.
Make sure that there are no cold spots in food when cooking in a microwave oven. Bacteria can survive in those spots.

4. Refrigerate as soon as possible.

Keep your refrigerator at no more than 40ºF and your freezer at 0ºF or below.
Refrigerate perishables, prepared food and leftovers within two hours.
Never defrost food on the counter. Use the refrigerator, cold running water or the microwave.
Leaving foods out at room temperature for extended periods of time is dangerous, because microbes can grow on foods and cause illness. Many bacteria thrive at room temperature.


5. Use good sense when shopping.
Don't buy foods in dented, rusty, bulging or leaky containers. Damaged containers may have small holes that allow bacteria to enter. Some food bacteria can cause cans to bulge.
Don't buy cracked eggs. Cracked eggs are more susceptible to bacterial growth, and they may leak on to other foods, contaminating them with Salmonella or other bacteria.
Always pick the frozen and perishable foods last and get them into the freezer or refrigerator as soon as possible. Allowing foods to sit for long periods of time at room temperature may allow bacteria to grow and multiply. 

Many perishable foods are dated for freshness. (milk, cottage cheese etc.)  This indicates the date the item should be sold by.  If handled properly, the food item should remain safe and wholesome for a reasonable time after that date.

6. If there is any doubt, throw it out.

Don't take any chances with food - it's not worth the risk. If you don't know how long a food has been sitting out, throw it out. If you don't know how old a food is and can't find a date on the packaging, throw it out. In most cases you can safely store leftovers for up to 1-week but if a food smells funny or looks funny discard it. 






Food Safety

The United States has two main government agencies that oversee the safety of the food supply-the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The FDA conducts tests, sets safety standards and enforces laws regulating food quality and processing. When a manufacturer makes a request to put food additives or color additives into a food, the FDA reviews the safety of the chemicals to ensure that they are safe. The FDA also reviews, approves and regulates drugs. The USDA has the responsibility of regulating and inspecting all meats and poultry during slaughter and processing to ensure their quality and safety.

The USDA and the FDA have enormous jobs ensuring the safety of the food supply for the 250 million people in the United States. The amount of food that is produced, shipped, processed, packaged, stored and prepared is absolutely astounding. In fact, every year each person in the United States consumes approximately:

·         233 pounds of milk and cream

·         126 pounds of potatoes

·         112 pounds of red meat

·         95 pounds of vegetables (not including potatoes)

·         92 pounds of fresh fruit

Although the United States has the safest food supply in the world, there are still many opportunities for the food to become contaminated from the time food leaves the farm to the time it is in the hands of the consumer. Knowledge about food safety hazards is the best line of defense.

Unfortunately, many people do get sick every year from food borne illness. Food borne illness is a disease that is transmitted to humans by food and is caused by bacteria present in the food. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, fever, cramps or upset stomach; they appear hours or even days after the contaminated food has been eaten. The most common causes for food borne illness are improper holding temperatures, poor personal hygiene, inadequate cooking, contaminated equipment and food from an unsafe source.

What Causes Food Borne Illness?

Food Borne Illness

People can get sick when the food they eat has been contaminated. Contamination can cause food borne illness (mild) or food poisoning (more severe). Bacteria grow easily in foods like meat, fish, poultry, milk, re-fried beans, cooked rice, and baked potatoes. These are called potentially hazardous foods. These are all foods that are moist or damp, and they have protein that the bacteria need to grow. Bacteria grow well on these and other foods if they area kept warm in the "Danger Zone".


The different types of contamination that cause illness:

  • Bacteria are the most common. They are everywhere, they grow fast, and they may spoil food or cause food borne illness.
  • A virus can also cause illness. A virus can be in liquids and foods that a sick person touches or can also be in raw or uncooked foods.
  • Parasites are tiny worms that live in fish and meat. They die if they are frozen or cooked long enough.
  • Chemicals, such as rat bait or cleaners, can also cause food poisoning. You must be sure to keep all chemicals away from food.

Causes of Food Borne Illness

Salmonella - bacteria are often found in eggs and on poultry and meats, but can come from other sources. People handling raw poultry and meats can easily contaminate their hands, cutting boards and utensils with salmonella. Wash and sanitize all items that have been used with raw poultry and meats before using them for other foods. Foods that are not cooked such as salads and cold sandwiches can easily make people ill with salmonella food poisoning.


Prevention of salmonella food poisoning:

·         Cook poultry and meat to internal temperatures of 165ºF or more.

·         Keep hot foods hot at 140ºF or more. -- Keep cold foods cold at 45ºF or less.

·         Use good hand washing. Salmonella germs come from feces or from poultry contaminated foods.

·         Use wiping cloths wet with bleach water. The bleach water will kill the germs on surfaces.

Staphylococcus - bacteria carried on the hands and face and in the nose of most healthy people. It produces a poison that is not destroyed by cooking or freezing. The poison is very strong and it only takes a little bit to make a person sick.


E. coli - germs are found in ground beef or on the surfaces of other beef products and in the feces of infected persons. People handling raw beef products can easily contaminate their hands and utensils with E.coli germs. It takes very few of these germs to make people sick.


Hepatitis A - virus can be spread through food contaminated by feces after poor hand washing. A person may spread hepatitis from two weeks before they have symptoms to two weeks after. Some cases are mild and there may not be symptoms. Because people may not be aware they have hepatitis, they must always use good hand washing habits.


Chemical Poisoning - when a chemical, such as a cleaning compound or a pesticide (such as rat poison or insect spray) gets into the food. Chemical poisoning can lead to death.

Symptoms of chemical poisoning:


The "Danger Zone"

Bacteria, or other germs, need time, food and moisture (or wetness) to grow; but they don't grow well when the temperature of the food is colder than 45ºF (7ºC) or hotter than 140ºF (60ºC). The temperatures between 45ºF and 140ºF are in the "Danger Zone!." Keep potentially hazardous foods out of the "Danger Zone!" For example, when food is left out in the "Danger Zone", bacteria can grow fast, and make poisons that can make your customers and family very sick.

Storing and Cooking Foods Properly to Maintain Nutrition

Storage Basics

Properly storing and cooking your food protects both the nutritional value and the quality of foods.  Some nutrients in food are more easily lost than others.  The ones most likely to be lost are Vitamins A and C; Calcium and Iron.  While storing foods, a variety of things can cause loss of these nutrients including light, heat, exposure to air, water, and time.  In general the longer the food is stored, especially if it is stored improperly, the greater the nutrient loss will be.  To minimize nutrient loss, foods should be stored in proper area and in appropriate containers.  Proper storage should keep foods at proper temperature, protected from heat, light, and moisture, and clean and free from insects and other pests.

Storage Choices

The three main types of storage are dry-storage, in a refrigerator, or in a freezer.


Dry-Storage is recommended for foods that are not perishable.  Foods should be kept in a cool, dry place, on a shelf or in a cabinet.  Nonperishable items and unopened packaged foods, such as canned foods, cereals, sweeteners, oil, or spices can be kept in dry-storage.  Usually items should be kept in their original container.  If the container is opened, they should be tightly re-closed, transferred to a clean, airtight container, or refrigerated, if necessary.


Refrigeration is necessary for perishable foods such as dairy products, meat, poultry, ripe fruits, and most vegetables (except potatoes, onions, or beats).  Potatoes, onions, and beats should be stored in a cool dry place.  Unripe fruits should be allowed to ripen before refrigeration.  Foods stored in the refrigerator should be tightly wrapped or placed in an air-tight container.  In general leftovers can be stored for at least one week if wrapped appropriately.  Improperly wrapped foods are more likely to dry out and lose nutrients and flavor.


Freezing is for longer-term storage.  Many foods can be frozen for 6-12 months if packaged properly without any significant loss of nutrition or quality.  Foods that are purchased already frozen may be stored in their original unopened containers.  Other foods should be tightly packaged in plastic wrap or bags, heavy aluminum foil, or airtight containers.  To avoid exposing the nutrients to air, squeeze as much air as possible out of the package before sealing.  When plastic containers are used, leave about one inch of space at the top to allow space for the food to expand.  For convenience, label all frozen foods with the name and date of freezing and use the oldest foods first to assure quality.


Practice – Ask for the Module Worksheet

Identify the potential food safety problems in the following scenarios:

Scenario a

Andrea goes to the store and decides to save some money by purchasing dented and slightly damaged canned foods.

Scenario b

Vince has been coughing and sneezing for several days, but he is determined to throw the dinner party he has had planned for weeks. He insists on cooking all of the food for his guests.

Scenario c

Keesha found this great deal on eggs at the store-half price off any carton with cracked eggs in it. She bought two cartons. She is going to use all of the eggs immediately when she gets home to make her famous banana pudding.

Scenario d

Glenn and Cadie are throwing a big summer picnic. It lasts from noon until 8 p.m. The food will be left out the entire time for people to eat whenever they wish.


Food Mod 1 – Worksheet

1.     Identify the potential food safety problems in each scenario listed in the module

Scenario a:  ________________________________________________________________________


Scenario b:  ________________________________________________________________________


Scenario c:  ________________________________________________________________________


Scenario d:  ________________________________________________________________________


2.     Why is hand washing so important in food handling?  _____________________________________


3.     Why is temperature control so important in food handling?   _______________________________



4.     What are the four common types of food contamination? __________________________________

5.     What temperature range is considered the ‘danger zone’?  _________________________________

6.   How long can you safely store most leftovers in the refrigerators?  __________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________________

7.     List at least four ‘potentially hazardous foods:  ___________________________________________


8.   Which four nutrients are the most easily lost?  ___________________________________________

9.   List three things that can cause nutrient loss in foods. ____________________________________

10.  What are the three common ways to store foods?  ________________________________________

11.  Which storage method is most appropriate for the following food items?  

bacon  ___________    cereal  ____________    potatoes  ____________    ice cream  ____________