Department of Public Health gives tips for stop food illness

FONDA — The Montgomery County Department of Public Health, 20 Park St., is offering tips for food safety and avoiding foodborne illness, according to a news release.

What is foodborne


Foodborne illness is preventable, yet one in six Americans get sick from contaminated foods or beverages each year. There are 48 million people who get sick from a foodborne illness, 128,000 people are hospitalized and 3,000 people die. Foodborne illness comes from eating contaminated food. Symptoms may occur within minutes to weeks and often presents itself in the form of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or fever. Because the symptoms are often flu-like, many people may not recognize that harmful microorganisms (germs) in food cause the illness. Everyone is at risk for getting a foodborne illness. However, those at greater risk are infants, young children, pregnant women and their unborn babies, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems (such as those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and transplant patients.)

How does bacteria

get in food?

Germs may be present on food items when people buy them. For example, plastic-wrapped chicken parts and ground meat came from live chickens or cattle. Raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs are not free from germs, neither is fresh produce such as lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts, and melons. Germs that cause disease are called pathogens. When certain pathogens enter the food supply, they can cause foodborne illness. Foods, including safely cooked and ready-to-eat foods, can become cross-contaminated. Germs can be transferred from raw egg products, raw meat, poultry, and seafood products and their juices, or from food handlers who do not practice safe hand washing, to the food you eat. Most cases of foodborne illness can be prevented with proper cooking or processing of food to destroy the germs.

Following four steps at home — clean, separate, cook, and chill — can help protect everyone from food poisoning.

1. Clean: Wash hands on surfaces often

∫ Germs that cause food poisoning can survive in many places and on many surfaces around the kitchen.

∫ Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before, during, and after preparing food and before eating.

∫ Wash utensils, cutting boards, and countertops with hot, soapy water.

∫ Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water.

2. Separate: Don’t cross-contaminate

∫ Use separate cutting boards and plates for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.

∫ When grocery shopping, keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and their juices away from other foods.

∫ Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods in the fridge.

3. Cook: To the right temperature

Food is safely cooked when the internal temperature gets high enough to kill germs that can make anyone sick. The only way to tell if food is safely cooked is to use a food thermometer. Anyone can’t tell if food is safely cooked by checking its color and texture.

Use a food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature.

∫ 145 degrees for whole cuts of beef, pork, veal, and lamb (then allow the meat to rest for three minutes before carving or eating).

∫ 160 degrees for ground meats, such as beef and pork

∫ 165 degrees for all poultry, including ground chicken and turkey

∫ 165 F for leftovers and casseroles

∫ 145 F for fresh ham (raw)

∫ 145 F for fin fish or cook until flesh is opaque

4. Chill: Refrigerate promptly

∫ Keep the refrigerator below 40 F and know when to throw food out.

∫ Refrigerate perishable food within two hours. (If outdoor temperature is above 90 F, refrigerate within one hour.)

∫ Bacteria can multiply rapidly if left at room temperature or in the “danger zone” between 40 F and 140 F. Never leave perishable food out for more than 2 hours (or 1 hour if it’s hotter than 90 F outside).

∫ Thaw frozen food safely in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. Never thaw foods on the counter, because bacteria multiply quickly in the parts of the food that reach room temperature.

In case of suspected foodborne illness, follow these general guidelines:

∫ Save a sample of the food. If a portion of the suspected food is available, wrap it securely, mark “danger” and freeze it. Save all the packaging, such as cans or cartons. Write down the food type, the date, the time it was eaten, and when symptoms began. Save any of the same unopened foods.

∫ Seek treatment as necessary. If the victim is in an “at risk” group, seek medical care right away. Likewise, if symptoms continue or are severe (such as bloody diarrhea, excessive nausea and vomiting, or high temperature), call your doctor.

∫ Call the local health department if the suspect food was served at a large gathering, from a restaurant or other food service facility, or if it is a commercial product.

∫ Call the U.S. Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) if the suspect food is a USDA-inspected product and you have all the packaging.