Food Safety Food Safety

Foodborne Illness

Foodborne illness (often called food poisoning) is a sickness that is caused by eating unsafe food. Foodborne illness can be mild, causing a stomach ache, or severe, causing a trip to the hospital or even death.

The main causes of foodborne illness are bacteria, viruses, fungus, and chemicals that get into or grow in food.

Who Should Watch Out For Foodborne Illness?

Anyone can become sick from eating unsafe food, but some people are more likely to get ill. Children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with weak immune systems are more likely to get sick and should take extra precautions against foodborne illness.

General Food Safety and Hazards

Sometimes when we think of food safety and food poisoning, we think of restaurants. But food poisoning can happen at home too! It is important to be aware of food hazards and practice food safety at home. There are three main types of health hazards that can be caused by not following food safety rules: biological, physical, and chemical hazards.

The Danger Zone

The danger zone is an important concept in food safety, and it is where many food safety rules come from. The danger zone refers to the temperature that allows bacteria to quickly grow in food, making it dangerous to eat. The temperature danger zone is about 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit. Foods that are likely to grow bacteria should be stored in temperatures below 40 degrees. These food include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, sauces, some opened containers, and any prepared foods like leftovers. It is important to check the temperature of your refrigerator to make sure it is cool enough. Food should be kept in the danger zone for as little time as possible. This includes when you are reheating or re-cooling food. Keeping food outside of the danger zone does not make it last forever though. Bacteria can still grow in food kept in the refrigerator, and it is important to pay attention to expiration dates and throw out old food.


Thawing Meat

There are a few ways to safely thaw meat.

Refrigerator

Remove meat from the freezer and let it thaw in the refrigerator. This will keep the temperature of the meat low, which means bacteria won’t be able to quickly grow in it. Many times, meat in the refrigerator takes a whole day to thaw, so it is important to plan ahead.

Pro:

Con:

Cold Water

Place the meat in a sealed, airtight package or bag in a bowl and fill the bowl with cold water. Then change out the water at least every 30 minutes, so that it is clean and cold. This is another way to keep the meat cool while it thaws. It is also important that the water is cold, not room temperature or warm. Room temperature and warm water will allow bacteria to grow and can make the meat dangerous to eat later. Depending on how much meat there is, it could take an hour to over 3 hours for the meat to thaw. Once the meat thaws, it needs to be cooked immediately.

Pro:

Con:

Microwave 

Meat can be thawed safely in the microwave.

Pro:

Con:


Hand-washing

Hand-washing might seem like a simple or unimportant task, but washing your hands must be done correctly to ensure any food you cook it safe to eat. It is also important to wash your hands throughout the day and after doing certain activities, whether or not you are planning on cooking or handling food. Teaching your kids how to wash their hands properly is also important – it can help prevent them from getting themselves or people around them sick.

When to Wash Your Hands

hand washing

How to Wash Your Hands

How to Encourage Kids to Wash Their Hands Correctly

What if There is No Running Water?


Safety Practices for Leftovers

Storing Leftovers

Thawing Frozen Leftovers

Reheating Leftovers 

thermometer

Leftover Leftovers

For recipes and more: