With 48 million cases of foodborne illness reported to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention each year it is essential food industry professionals understand how to prevent food poisoning and firmly implement food safety protocol to prevent it.
An Overview of Foodborne Illness
Foodborne illness is a food safety public health issue that can result in severe illness and even death. No one is safe from foodborne illness and some people are even more at risk than others. For this reason, understanding how to prevent food poisoning is crucial for both food industry professionals and consumers to understand.
A pregnant woman or someone with a weak immune system could be affected more severely than the general population. Additionally, elderly people and young children can get sick more easily or get sicker than an adult with an immune system that is healthy.
The most common causes of foodborne illness are from bacterias like E.coli and viruses like norovirus poisoning food and attacking the human immune system critically. Food industry professionals must make sure to prevent food poisoning by following food safety tips from both their local department health professionals and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Tips on Preventing Food Poisoning
There are many tips that can help prevent food poisoning and foodborne illness including-
1. Hand washing- Prevent food poisoning through handwashing. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with lots of soap and warm water. Some examples of when you should wash your hands include while-
- Handling raw meat
- Handling cooked food and ready eat food
- Checking internal temperature
- Cleaning cutting board and other tools
- While preparing food
- After blowing your nose or coughing
- After using the restroom
2. Raw meat storage-
Bacteria grow most rapidly on raw meat and proper raw meat storage is a top priority to prevent food poisoning and adhere to food safety guidelines. Make sure to store raw meat separately and on the bottom shelf to avoid cross-contamination.
3. Cook properly-
Raw food must be cooked thoroughly and its internal temperature should be checked before serving. When cooking, do not wash raw meat to reduce risk of food poisoning caused by spreading harmful raw meat bacteria across your kitchen.
4. Monitor temperature-
Both internal temperature and fridge temperatures are crucial to monitor to avoid foodborne illness transmission. Avoid time spent in the danger zone which is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit
. Bacteria grow rapidly in the danger zone and can double in as little as 20 minutes.
When storing cooked food leftovers always aim to do so by the two hour mark from when the food was prepared. Keep cold food cold and hot food hot while preparing food and always keep time spent in the danger zone as limited as possible.
If you are not going to serve hot food immediately, make sure to keep it at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer. If you are not going to serve cold food immediately, make sure to keep it at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Economic Impact
There is a very real economic cost to foodborne illness according to research compiled by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Analysis of five common bacterial pathogens alone cost America $6.9 billion each year in medical expenses and productivity lost.
Even when analyzing the money lost from lack of productivity and medical expenses does not account for significant outside costs that affect both industry and government.
Not only are billions spent treating foodborne illness and studies find doctor intervention is not always enough to save someone's life, particularly if they have a compromised immune system or a pregnant woman is the patient. Tragically, 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths each year are traced back to foodborne illness pathogens.
Unfortunately, there is no way to completely avoid food poisoning and foodborne illness transmission. People will get sick and those who are the most at risk including those with low immune system capabilities and an otherwise healthy pregnant woman should take extra care.
Make sure to understand any symptom food poisoning manifests as so you can find doctor intervention as soon as possible. Do not risk food poisoning resulting in death and reduce risk of serious long term complications by getting medical help if you feel ill.
The good news is that there are solid steps that can be taken to increase food safety and prevent food poisoning across the nation. Health human service professionals and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention are aggressively looking for ways to further combat the spread of food poisoning and foodborne illness in all stages of the food industry.