4 Steps to Lower Your Risk of Getting Sick from Food

By Elisa Zied, RD, MS, CDN for GalTime.com
SALADSALAD

Dole Fresh Vegetables is voluntarily recalling a limited number of cases of American Blend salad in 12 ounce bags because of a possible risk of Listeria. Impacted bags have the code A275208A or B, with USE-BY DATE of October 17 and UPC 7143000933. No injuries have been reported.

When cases of food recalls or potential foodborne illness make the news, it makes us think: What are consumers to do when so many of the foods that they enjoy and commonly eat can potentially make them sick?

Many of these foods are also quite healthful---fruits and vegetables are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals and other beneficial substances; fish provides lean protein, and tuna is rich in healthful omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and other vital nutrients; eggs are a great source of complete protein; and low fat dairy products provide tons of calcium.

Robbing your diet of these foods can make meals less satisfying and may rob you of opportunities to get many of the nutrients you need. So, instead of subjecting yourself to a highly restrictive diet in an attempt to avoid getting sick from food, here are four simple steps you can take to minimize your risks; while there are many more things you can do in addition to what's listed below, these tips will help you get started on your quest to eat more safely:

Related: Is It Fresh? A Guide to the Shelf Life of Your Food

1. Wash, wash, wash...your hands, that is. Whether you use soap and water or hand sanitizer, keeping your hands clean at all times, and making sure to wash your hands after you grocery shop, handle raw foods, or sneeze or cough (or even blow your nose) will substantially reduce the likelihood that bacteria or other unwelcome germs will spread and lead to illness.

2. When preparing or cooking food, treat any raw foods (especially beef, poultry, fish, or eggs) as you would fine china--they're breakable and should be handled with care and attention. Never allow raw foods or their juices to come in contact with any other foods or surfaces to minimize the spread of bacteria (if there is any in the food to begin with). Make sure any utensils (cutting boards, knives, or other equipment) you use to handle the food are not used for other foods as well unless they're thoroughly washed beforehand.

Related: Storing Your Food Safely

3. Cook foods to their proper temperatures. Bacteria multiply rapidly in foods that are between 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit; to reduce the risk for foodborne illness, make sure to use a meat thermometer (and clean it with hot soap and water before and after each use) to see how thoroughly meats, poultry, and fish are cooked.

· Poultry, including chicken, turkey, duck and goose, should all be cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit

· Raw beef, pork, lamb, and veal (steaks, roasts, and chops) should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit

· Ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit

· Fish and shellfish should be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

· It's also a great idea to check the temperature of reheated leftovers; most should reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. Don't leave it out. Food that's been left out of the refrigerator for more than two hours becomes a welcome mat for bacteria; in the hot sun, and when temperatures outside reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the window for keeping food safe decreases to only one hour. Whether you're entertaining at home, or just feeding your family, try to time meals/events so that foods are not left out for longer than one to two hours max.

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