According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 1 in 6 Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne illnesses each year. While those statistics are daunting, there is good news: a lot of those illnesses could be prevented with better food safety practices.
Food safety is important at every stage of the food chain, from farm to table. Farmers and food producers must take care not to contaminate their products, and retailers and restaurateurs must handle and prepare food safely to prevent cross-contamination. Consumers also have a role to play in food safety, by properly storing and cooking food.
The Role of Farmers and Food Producers
Farmers and food producers have a responsibility to prevent contamination of their products. They should implement safe farming practices, such as using clean water for irrigation and preventing animal waste from getting into fields where crops are grown. They should also practice good hygiene themselves, such as washing their hands thoroughly after handling animal products.
Food producers must also take care to clean and sanitize their equipment properly, to avoid cross-contamination between different batches of food. For example, if bacon is processed on the same conveyor belt as lettuce, there is a risk of bacon grease contaminating the lettuce. To avoid this, food producers should use separate pieces of equipment for different types of foods, or clean and sanitize equipment thoroughly between uses.
The Role of Retailers and Restaurateurs
Retailers and restaurateurs play a critical role in ensuring that food is safe to eat. They must receive shipments of food from farmers and producers that are unadulterated and properly labeled. They should then store the food properly to maintain its quality and prevent contamination. For example, raw meat should be stored separately from other foods, ideally in the refrigerator or freezer.
When preparing food for customers, retailers and restaurateurs must cook food properly to kill any harmful bacteria that may be present. For example, chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill any potential bacteria like salmonella. Finally, retailers and restaurateurs should practice good hygiene themselves by regularly washing their hands and wearing gloves when handling food.
The Role of Consumers in Food Safety
While farmers, producers, retailers, and restaurateurs all play a role in keeping our food safe, consumers also have responsibilities when it comes to food safety. First, consumers should only buy food from reputable sources that follow proper safety protocols.
Once they have brought the food home, consumers need to store it properly to prevent spoilage or contamination. For example, raw meat should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer until it is ready to be cooked. Additionally, perishable foods should not be left out at room temperature for more than two hours; bacteria can grow rapidly at warmer temperatures.
Finally, consumers need to cook food properly before eating it. Again, raw chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Burgers should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Eggs should be cooked until the yolks and whites are firm; fish should be cooked until it flakes easily with a fork.and left over sand casse roles should be reheated to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- These cooking temperatures kill harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. By following these simple tips, consumers can help keep themselves and their families safe from harm.