Extension and Ag Research News


Avoid Foodborne Illness With Proper Food Handling

Practicing good food handling techniques can keep you from getting sick.

Don’t let salmonella crash your party.

Salmonella is a bacterium that can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever and headaches in humans from six to 48 hours after ingesting it. It can come from a variety of sources, including water, soil, kitchen surfaces, animal feces, and raw meat, poultry and seafood.

The North Dakota Department of Health is investigating three outbreaks involving the same caterer. One outbreak is associated with a family reunion in Wilton; two others are related to weddings in Washburn and McClusky. More than 75 people became ill and nine have been hospitalized. Of those hospitalized, two were in intensive care.

An estimated 2 million to 4 million cases of salmonellosis, the infection caused by salmonella, occur in the U.S. annually.

You need to handle and cook food properly because bacteria may be on food when you buy it or the food can become contaminated right in your kitchen, says Julie Garden-Robinson, North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist.

Clean, separate, cook and chill are the key words to remember when preparing food at home or for large groups such as family reunions, church dinners and community gatherings, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

  • Wash your hands with soap and hot water before and after handling food, and wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops after preparing each food item before going on to the next one.
  • Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from other foods in your grocery shopping cart, grocery bags and refrigerator; use one cutting board for fresh produce and a different one for raw meat, poultry and seafood; and never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs without washing the plate first.
  • Cook foods to the proper temperatures (160 F for ground meat such as hamburger; 165 F for poultry). Use a food thermometer to check for doneness.
  • Chill cooked food promptly. Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator. At picnics or other events where refrigeration isn’t possible, place containers of cold food on ice to make sure they stay cold.

Here are some other tips from the NDSU Extension Service on how to avoid salmonellosis and other foodborne illnesses:

  • Do not buy canned goods that are dented, cracked or bulging.
  • Buy fresh fruits and vegetables that are free from unusual odors or signs of spoilage.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables with cool, running water before eating or cutting them.
  • Buy cold foods last and drive home or to the food preparation site directly from the grocery store. If that’s not possible, or your destination is more than 30 miles away, bring a cooler with ice or commercial freezing gels and put perishable foods in it.
  • For outdoor events, make sure you have a source of clean water. If none is available, bring enough water for washing hands, utensils and food thermometers.
  • Thaw food in the refrigerator or microwave, not on the kitchen counter.
  • Marinate food in the refrigerator.
  • If you want to use marinade for sauce later, set some aside. Don’t use marinade for sauce once it has been on raw meat or poultry.
  • If you are among a group of people cooking for an event, select a reliable person to be in charge.

“Whether you are cooking for your family at home or for a large-group event, following food-handling guidelines is essential to protecting yourself and others from foodborne illnesses,” Garden-Robinson says.

For more information about food safety, visit the NDSU Web site at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/foodmenu/safety.htm.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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