September is National Food Safety Education Month and, while we should all practice food safety year round, now is the time to brush up on our knowledge and help spread awareness about this important topic. According to the CDC, an average of 1 in 6 Americans suffers from foodborne illnesses each year, but awareness and education can help us work towards reducing this alarming statistic. In fact, if we reduced the average number of food borne illnesses by only 1%, we would save 500,000 Americans from becoming ill from food poisoning each year. Knowledge truly is power.
FoodSafety.gov recommends everyone follows four important steps towards food safety in the home. They are Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill. Here is a quick outline for each major step, to help you keep your food safe and educate your friends and family as well.
- Wash your hands and all surfaces in your kitchen or wherever food is handled often.
- Hands should be washed for a minimum of 20 seconds with soap and water.
- Wash all cutting boards, utensils, pots, pans and dishware after every use.
- Wash all fruits and vegetables before use, even if you won’t be consuming the outer skin or peel.
- Avoid cross-contamination of foods by keeping raw and ready-to-eat foods far away from each other at all times.
- Even when shopping, you should keep meat, poultry, seafood and eggs separated from the other foods in your craft or grocery bag.
- These same items should be stored a safe distance from other foods in your refrigerator as well.
- Always use a food thermometer to be sure your food has been cooked to the proper, safe temperature.
- Food should be kept hot after cooking unless you are storing it away in the refrigerator for later consumption. A safe temperature for cooked foods is 140 ˚F or higher.
- When microwaving foods and leftovers, make sure they reach 165 ˚F or higher for maximum safety.
- Barbecued meats require different temperatures depending on which ones you are cooking. Our Food Safety for Barbeques article provides the precise temperatures for different grilling foods.
- Foods should be refrigerated immediately after being served. Waiting for any cooked food to cool to room temperature before refrigerating encourages the growth of bacteria.
- Freezers should be kept at 0 ˚F or below, but remember, freezing food will not kill harmful bacteria. It will just keep food safe until you can cook it.
- Thaw foods in a refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave, but never on the counter top. You should also always marinate foods in the refrigerator.
- Stay ahead of bacteria by throwing foods away before harmful organisms can grow. FoodSafety.gov has provided a helpful storage times chart for knowing when to introduce foods to the trash.
Looking for a custom giveaway that will help you make an even bigger impact for food safety awareness and education? We recommend lunch and food containers for an added emphasis on safe food storage, both at home and in the workplace.
Let’s start spreading the word about food safety and save countless people from food borne illnesses today!