Table of Contents
Food Safety – FOODBORNE ILLNESSES sicken 76 million Americans each year, 5,000 of whom die as a result. Public health efforts target food safety on a community as well as an individual level. At the public safety level, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversee numerous programs that regulate food safety in the United States. These programs cover the gamut of food production and include pesticide and herbicide use, animal feed and use of supplements, food additives, product packaging and labeling, and safe food handling practices among wholesalers and retailers (including grocery stores and restaurants). These agencies inspect production facilities and test produce, grains, dairy products, meats, and other foods for biological and chemical contaminants.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) monitors foodborne illness outbreaks, in coordination with state and local health departments. These agencies investigate illnesses and recommend corrective procedures to prevent future outbreaks. They also provide education and training for people who work in food services industries. Though the public tends to fear outbreaks of foodborne illnesses that originate from settings such as cruise ships or restaurants, most foodborne illness occurs as a result of contamination in home-prepared foods.
Summertime picnics, holiday parties, and other events where people entertain large groups in their homes or other private venues are common sources of “food poisoning.” Nearly always, these events can be traced to improper food preparation, handling, serving, and storage. Using the same surfaces and implements to prepare meat or poultry and then vegetables and fruits allows crosscontamination of BACTERIA that may be present on countertops and cutting boards, in the air, or on foods.
Proper cooking kills the bacteria in the meat or poultry, but raw vegetables and fruits can carry bacteria and the potential for illness to those who eat them. The tendency to leave food out so people may help themselves or while other festivities take place can allow bacteria to flourish. Salads made with mayonnaise, cooked turkey, and pies left out too long at warm temperatures are commonly to blame for foodborne illness. More often than not, contaminated foods look and taste fine.
Key Individual Measurea for Preventing Foodborne Illnesses
- Wash hands frequently with soap and warm water, especially before and after preparing food.
- Use separate surfaces for preparing meats and other foods.
- Thoroughly cook meats.
- Keep hot foods heated and cold foods chilled when serving them buffet-style.
- Promptly refrigerate leftovers and throw away most leftovers after five days.
See also HAND WASHING; WATERBORNE ILLNESSES.