Become a Food Safety Nerd Like Me

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Food safety is a very underappreciated but important thing.

Not to be a gigantic nerd, but I’d like to point out that according to Center for Disease Control (CDC) research back in 2011  about 48 million people gets sick from a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die each year in the U.S.

That’s some serious stuff.

With a lot of us millennials growing up with highly processed foods (low in moisture, high in salt, high in sugar, sterilized, packaged, shelf-stable), a lot of us don’t know how to be safe with foods. What foods are hazardous? What needs to be refrigerated? How long can our left-over Moe’s sit in the hot car before our yummy beans grow so much Listeria monocytogenes our bowels want to scream in agony?

I was reminded of this disconnect by my friend Chaela the other day. Now keep in mind, Chaela is a very smart, college-educated business woman. Chaela thought she could drink a latte after it sat in her car in the heat for 4 hours. Chaela got very sick.

You know something really great and encouraging about Chaela, she learns from her mistakes and asks good questions. Those are two of the many things that display her high intelligence. After Chaela told me her latte story, we had a nice conversation about food safety and tips. A few weeks later, Chaela had a decision to make: should she eat the open jar of salsa that had been sitting on the counter for 4 days, or should she refrain. After deliberation and research, Chaela made the decision to throw the salsa away. Chaela’s GI tract and I are both very proud of her.

Here are some tips for us think about to keep ourselves from getting a foodborne illness:

Wash your produce- even produce with a rind, such as watermelon or grapefruit. If the rind is contaminated with a pathogen, your knife will contaminate the part you eat as you slice through.

Keep your cold foods cold and hot foods hot- temperatures between 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit are termed in the “Time Temperature Danger Zone”, and foods should not be left at these temperature for greater than 4 hours as pathogens grow optimally in these conditions. If it’s 90 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter, don’t leave food out greater than 1 hour.

Don’t cross-contaminate- have separate cutting boards and knives for produce, meat, poultry and fish. Wash your hands as you handle different foods.

Eat your leftovers within a week, or throw away- or throw away if their stinky. Or slimy. Or growing things.

Remember: heating up does not redeem your foods! Some pathogens produce spores or toxins that survive very hot temperatures and can make you very sick. If the food wasn’t prepared safe and kept safe, don’t risk it.

I am aware that this wasn’t a super well-referenced or scientific blog post. This site is certainly not where I post professional things. But food safety is so important, and I hope these little tips were helpful for some of you. Let’s be smart like Chaela and do our best not get sick from food this 2017!

The CDC and USDA are great resources for more information on this topic- and if you are really interested, you can take a ServSafe course and become a restaurant grade pro at food safety!

Happy New Year 😀

 

 

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