According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), food-borne diseases cause an estimated 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,200 deaths in the United States each year.
There are ways to avoid food borne illness. “Consumers always want to know what they should do to avoid getting sick,” says Sarah Klein, lead author of the report. “Consumers can’t and shouldn’t avoid these foods,” she said.
The first step in avoiding food borne illness is to watch what you buy. Is it important to be sure the food you buy at the grocery store is the freshest available. Check the package expiration or “use by” dates, and when the date expires, throw the food away to be safe. Buying fresh at local farmers markets are one of the safer ways to shop for produce.
Fruits and vegetables can harbor some of the most deadly food-borne pathogens, particularly if they are washed or irrigated with water that is contaminated with animal or human feces. These germs can get into fruits and vegetables during processing or packaging. Therefore, always wash fresh fruits and vegetables even if they come in pre-washed packages or if you plan on peeling them anyhow. This includes washing melons such as watermelon, cantaloupe and honey dew.
In order to avoid food borne illness in foods, be sure to 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. Under cooking certain meats can cause food borne illness.
There are ways to protect you and your family from some of the hazards of these healthy but vulnerable foods. Don’t buy bruised or damaged produce. Place produce is a separate bag than meats and fish. Keep perishable produce at 40 degrees or below. Be sure to wash cutting boards and counter tops all the time. Do not buy canned goods that are dented, cracked or bulging this can possibly damage the food content.
Other helpful tips to avoid food borne illness include, thaw out food in the refrigerator or microwave, not on the kitchen counter and 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.
“In a relative scale our food supply remains quite safe,” says Craig Hedberg, a professor of environmental and occupational health at the University of MinnesotaSchool of Public Health. Avoiding certain food borne illnesses begins with simple awareness and creating new habits.
Materials from Chicago Tribune and Health Publications are used in this report.
Written by Tyler Woods Ph.D.
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