The holidays are around the corner, and the Florida Department of Health is encouraging Floridians to practice food hygiene handling skills to keep food safe. Bacteria are fast multiplying single cellular organism that pose a threat to our health. Many cases of reported food borne illnesses are caused by bacteria, or their toxic by-products.
One of the biggest contributors to bacterial growth, is when food items are not kept at proper temperatures. Foods are safest when refrigerated at or below 40F, or at or above 140F. By keeping foods at these temperatures, the multiplication of bacteria is reduced. While storage temperatures of foods play a vital role, there are more steps to ensuring foods are safe to eat.
To reduce the chances of contracting a food borne illness, the Department of Health recommends the following:
- Hygiene: When entering the food prep area, before you even begin to cook or handle food items, wash your hands thoroughly under warm water with soap. When handling foods, wash your hands in between different food items, such as eggs, fish, and raw meats. Hands are the perfect vehicle of food borne disease transmission, as they aid bacteria to find new sources of nutrients to colonize on. Ensure all utensils and surfaces are clean and sanitized before use to ensure you are not contaminating the meal you are prepping.
- Temperature: When storing foods in the fridge, do not set the refrigerator above 40F. This is to ensure the environment in your fridge does not favor bacterial growth conditions, as below 40F will halt their growth. When freezing foods, ensure your freezer is set at or below 0F. When cooking foods, ensure you meet the minimum cooking temperatures, which are 145F for beef, fish and pork, 165F poultry and casseroles, and 160F for ground meats. The best method to make sure food temperatures are in safe ranges is to utilize a calibrated food thermometer.
- Contamination: When storing foods in your fridge or freezer, keep raw meats, seafood, eggs, and poultry with their liquids away from ready to eat foods. When prepping foods, wash cutting boards and utensils in between use.
- Health: Do not handle foods while you are sick or symptomatic. Handling or serving foods while sick can lead to possible contamination, resulting in others contracting your illness.
If you believe you have contracted a food borne illness, report the incident to your local health department. For more information relating to safe handling of food, and food borne disease, please visit http://www.foodsafety.gov.