You Can Avoid The 24 Hour Flu
You know why? Because it really doesn’t exist.
Most likely what you were experiencing was a bout with foodborne illness. No joke.
Why am I talking about foodborne illness on this here blog? Well, as we all know, medical care is expensive. With food prices on the rise more people are cooking at home to help stretch their dollar. Learning how to prevent our home cooked meals from making our families ill can save us valuable funds and sick time.
The CDC estimates that there are about 76 million cases of foodborne illness every year; with 325,000 serious enough to require hospitalization. Even if most of the cases are mild and go away after a few days that’s still a lot of downtime for the American worker.
Think it’s all from shady restaurants? Probably not.
The odds are that many cases of foodborne illness start in our very own kitchens.
At least restaurants (hopefully) have the proper equipment, training, and monitoring to reduce their risk of serving up a plate of foodborne illness. Who is teaching the home cook about proper sanitation? Is anyone performing inspections to make sure you are cooking and storing your food correctly?
I learned some really interesting things in my sanitation class that could actually benefit us home cooks. I’m far from a germ-o-phobe but I’m much more conscious of my practices now. I’ve already changed some of my cooking habits after learning a bit more about how to prevent potential illness.
Reduce your chances of serving a side of salmonella with your chicken pot pie with these tips:
Stop cross contamination. The biggest source of cross contamination is from your hands. Wash your hands (along with your cutting board AND knives/utensils) with soap every time you change foods. Simply wiping your board after cutting up raw chicken isn’t enough. Wash it and dry it with single use paper towels. I like to use a sanitizing spray for my surfaces, too.
Think about how you store your food. Don’t place your raw chicken on the top shelf where juices could drip down and contaminate other food or surfaces. You should always try to place cooked or ready-to-eat foods above and away from raw foods.
The industry stores food (top to bottom):
- Ready To Eat Foods (cooked foods, prepared foods)
- Whole fish (salmon filets, shrimp)
- Whole meats (pork tenderloin, steak)
- Ground meats (ground beef, ground pork)
- Poultry (chicken, turkey)
Cook your food properly. Heat can kill many of the pathogens that cause illness. The only way you can definitively know that your food is cooked to the recommended internal temperature is with a thermometer. You can find a nifty brochure containing the USDA’s temperature guidelines here. Oddly enough, some of the USDA’s current recommendations are higher than what is in my book for pork and ground meat.
Avoid the danger zone. The “danger zone” refers to the temperature range that bacteria multiply rapidly in; currently that temperature range is 41 F to 135 F. Food exposed to this temperature range for 4 hours or longer could accumulate enough bacteria to cause illness.
An example of this time/temperature abuse is leaving your thanksgiving meal out on the table all afternoon. Put away leftovers promptly and keep them below 41 F. If food sits out, especially longer than 4 hours, toss it.
Thaw safely. There’s a reason why you aren’t supposed to set that frozen turkey on the counter to thaw. By the time the center starts to warm up the surface has already been in the bacteria-friendly danger zone for too long. That’s just no good. The best ways to thaw food are:
- In the fridge – put your frozen items in the fridge the night before you want to use it.
- Under cool running water in the sink
- By cooking it – you can take that frozen food and add it directly to the pan as long as you cook it thoroughly (no thawing then storing with this method)
- In the microwave – As long as you cook it immediately this is safe
Wash all your fruits and veggies. Just do it. Many bacteria and viruses can be spread through contaminated soil, water, or equipment that has touched your food. Before using your veggies make sure to thoroughly wash them. I always wait to wash them until immediately before use to lower my chances of food spoilage.
Do you have any home food sanitation advice or concerns?
Image Source: kaibara87