Every year, an estimated 48 million Americans get sick from foodborne illnesses, resulting in 3,000 deaths and nearly 130,000 hospitalizations, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
In observance of Food Safety Education Month in September, the Defense Commissary Agency joins the CDC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Food Safety Inspection Service, the Department of Health and Human Services and other organizations to help prevent foodborne illnesses by increasing awareness of improperly handling food items.
With so much at stake it takes everyone – producers, retailers and consumers alike – to help prevent foodborne illnesses, said Army Lt. Col. Angela M. Parham, director of DeCA’s Public Health and Safety.
“Commissaries have military veterinarians and store food safety specialists inspecting food sources, deliveries and products on the shelves to help ensure they’re free of potential contaminants,” Parham said.
Bacteria and viruses are the leading causes of food poisoning, according to FoodSafety.gov, and there’s plenty that people can do to help protect themselves from them, Parham said.
“As advocates of ‘Be Food Safe’ guidelines, we wan tcommissary patrons to understand how they can reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses when they leave the store,” she said. “Just by washing your hands before, during and after handling food, you can help prevent alot of problems.”
The “Be Food Safe” message, is simple: clean, separate, cook and chill. For more on food safety awareness, go to the www.cdc.gov/foodsafety.
• Wash hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat, poultry or seafood.
• Wash utensils, cutting boards, dishes and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to prepare the next item.
• Food contact surfaces can be sanitized with a freshly made solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water.
•Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods in your grocery shopping cart and in your refrigerator.
• If possible, use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry and seafood.
• Never place cooked food or foods that are eaten raw, like salads, on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood.
• Cook poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 Fahrenheit as measured with a food thermometer.
• Use a food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature. Use the following guidelines for cooking meat, poultry and seafood: n 145°F for whole cuts of beef, pork, veal, and lamb (then allow the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or eating
•160°F for ground meats, such as beef and pork n 165°F for all poultry, including ground chicken and turkey
• 145°F for fresh ham (raw)
• 145°F for fin fish or cook until flesh is opaque.
• Chill food promptly and properly. Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared foods and leftovers within two hours (or one hour if temperatures are above 90 F).
• 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.
• Bacteria can multiply rapidly if left at room temperature or in the “Danger Zone” between 40°F and 140°F.