September is Food Safety Education Month where the focus is how we can keep our food safe and prevent food poisoning. According to the CDC, 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3000 die from eating contaminated food every year. Although anyone can get sick from food poisoning, there are some groups who are more vulnerable. These include:
- Children younger than 5 years old
- Adults 65 and older
- People who have weakened immune systems or take medications that lower the body’s ability to fight sickness and germs
- Women who are pregnant
In order to protect yourself and your family, follow the steps of safe food handling when preparing and cooking food at home:
- Clean: wash hands, utensils and surfaces often while cooking
- Separate: raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs as they can spread germs. Keep them separated from cooked food and fresh produce.
- Cook: use a food thermometer to make sure the internal temperature of the food is such that the germs are killed
- Chill: refrigerate perishable foods and leftovers within 2 hours
I did want to mention COVID-19. Since COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, not a foodborne illness, there is currently no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 in association with food. Since COVID-19 causes respiratory illness, the greatest risk is being around people who have the virus and are symptomatic. As with any food safety, though, similar actions to prevent foodborne illness can be taken to stop the spread of COVID-19. These include hand hygiene, using gloves when necessary, covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces.
Stay healthy by being clean is always the motto whether COVID-19 is with us or not. By following food safety guidelines, we can all reduce the incidence of not only foodborne illness, but that awful virus, too.