Preventing Foodborne Illnesses in Your Kitchen For millions of people home is where the hearth is, and in a home the kitchen is one of the main places everyone gathers. Yet, a kitchen can be deadly without you even realizing the danger is present. Bacteria are present. Every surface in your kitchen has bacteria on it, some are benign (meaning they do not make you sick) while others are benign until ingested and can make you very sick. When it comes to the prevention of foodborne illness there are four steps to food safety you can take to protect you and your family every day. They are: clean, separate, cook, and chill.

Prevention is one of the main factors to staying healthy. By following these four steps you strive to decrease the possibility of causing a foodborne illness either from your actions or an unclean kitchen. The Centers for Disease Control notes that foodborne diseases cause approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year. Known pathogens account for an estimated 14 million illnesses, 60,000 hospitalizations, and 1,800 deaths. * About 10 million U. S. adults were unable to work during 2002 due to health problems. * Infectious diseases cost the U. S. 120 billion a year. * More than 160,000 people in the U. S. die yearly from an infectious disease. * Salmonella infections are responsible for an estimated 1. 4 million illnesses each year. (1) What is a foodborne illness? According to Wikipedia, “a food borne illness is defined as any illness resulting from the consumption of contaminated food. ” (2) There are many types of germs (viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi) that could cause foodborne illnesses. Salmonella (bacteria) is one of the most common causes of foodborne illness. This is what you might find on the cutting board in your kitchen: Dr.

Kenneth Today, PhD (2009) states that “Salmonella is caused by contaminated water or eating raw or undercooked food sources; usually poultry, meat, and eggs. ” (3) Figure 1 Salmonella Choleraesuis Clean (hands and surfaces often. ) Cleaning and disinfecting is not the same thing. Cleaning removes germs from surfaces while disinfecting actually destroys them. Using soap and water is usually enough to clean within your kitchen, but sometimes you might want to disinfect. Surfaces in your kitchen may look clean, but you cannot see germs with the naked eye. In some cases, germs can live for hours on surfaces or even days!

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These germs can be spread throughout the kitchen and get onto our hands from cutting boards, utensils, counter tops, and food. The most basic way you can stop the spread of germs is to WASH your hands! They should be washed before, during, and after handling food. Before eating and after handling something that could be contaminated, such as a trash can, cleaning rag, or drain. We all know how to wash our hand, but here is how you make sure you get them clean, and as germ free as possible. * Wet your hands and apply some soap. Soap is always the preferred method. * Rub your hands together, and make a lather.

Scrub all surfaces vigorously. * Do this for 20 seconds! It takes that long for the soap and the scrubbing to loosen and remove the germs. I sing the Happy Birthday song twice to ensure I wash my hands long enough. * Now rinse then dry your hands with a paper towel, and if possible use the paper towel to turn off the faucet. When using a cutting board and knife, wash them with warm, soapy water before you switch foods. It is a good idea to have several cutting boards available; when possible color code them. I. e. : blue is for vegetables and red is for raw meats.

Separate (don’t cross-contaminate one food with another). Cross-contamination is a common problem, and can occur several different ways. For example: using the same piece of equipment with raw meat, and then switching to vegetables without first washing it, or replacing it with clean equipment. I. e. : When grilling, you placed your raw meat on a plate to bring out to the grill. You cook your meat, and then place the cooked meat on the same plate without first washing it. Cross-contamination can occur in the refrigerator. Raw meat should always be placed below other items in your refrigerator.

Juices from the meat could drip down and contaminate other food items in the refrigerator. Another way for it to occur is by our hands. As previously mentioned, our hands should be washed before, during, and after food preparation. By during, I mean when you switch tasks they should be cleaned. I. e. : kneading dough, and then cutting vegetables. Remember how I said some germs can live on surfaces for days? Germs like to hide in the crevices of jewelry and watches. Do you wear jewelry while in the kitchen? It is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control not to wear anything on your ands or wrists while preparing food. Cook foods to proper temperatures. Food is safely cooked when they are heated for a long enough time, and have reached a certain internal temperature. This kills the harmful bacteria that may cause foodborne illnesses. The recommended temperatures are different for each specific food. For the safe cooking times, and temperatures for most meats, they are listed at www. fightbac. org/. You know meat is thoroughly cooked and safe to eat, when you use a thermometer. No other method is recommended. The fourth step is chill (refrigerate foods promptly. Cold temperatures slow down the growth of bacteria, the sooner your food is placed in the refrigerator the better. The refrigerator should be maintained at 41 degrees F, or below. The freezer should be at 0 degrees F, or below. Bacteria like a warm environment to grow in and the optimal temperature for them is between 42 degrees F and 144 degrees F. When grocery shopping, plan ahead. Place your perishable foods (dairy, meat, eggs) in your basket last and refrigerate them as soon as possible. Keep your refrigerator neat and clean. Do not over-stuff it or the cool air will not be able to circulate and keep the food safe.

Place leftover foods in containers that have form fitting lids. Opened items of foods, such as a can of corn, should not be stored in the refrigerator in the can. We all strive to keep our families safe and healthy. Implementing these four steps: clean, separate, cook, and chill, will exponentially decrease our chances of contracting a foodborne illness in our homes. References Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2009). An Ounce of Prevention Keeps the Germs Away. Retrieved from http://www. cdc. gov/ounceofprevention/docs/oop_brochure_eng. pdf 16 June 2010.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (31 July 2009). Food Safety. Retrieved from http: www. cdc. gov/foodsafety. 16 June 2010. Partners for Food Safety Education (2006). Safe Food Handling. Retrieved from http://www. fightbac. org/content/view/6/11/. 16 June 2010. Partners for Food Safety Education (2006). Safe Food Handling, Myth Busters. Retrieved from http://www. fightbac. org/content/view/151/2/. 16 June 2010 Today, T. (2009). Todar’s online textbook of Bacteriology. Retrieved from http://textbookofbact eriology. net/salmonella 3. html. 22 June 2010.

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