A new study analyzing outbreaks of foodborne illness has found contaminated salad greens make the most people sick, but contaminated poultry have resulted in the most deaths. In light of this study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Home Food Safety program -- a collaboration between the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and ConAgra Foods -- encourages Americans, rather than avoid certain foods, to practice safe food handling at home instead.
"While this study found produce accounted for nearly half of food poisoning illnesses, everyone should still eat plenty of fruits and vegetables," says registered dietitian and Academy Spokesperson Rachel Begun.
"Safe food-handling procedures can help protect you from foodborne illnesses while still allowing you to enjoy these tasty and nutritious foods."
"One of the most important things you can do to stay healthy is to wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water, especially when it comes to the particularly nasty norovirus," Begun said. "The norovirus accounted for 46 percent of the illnesses according to this study, and while hand sanitizer is great to reduce the spread of some germs, research shows us that soap and water is best," she said.
Begun encouraged Americans to visit www.HomeFoodSafety.org for tips to reduce the risk of food poisoning, and offered the following advice:
- Properly wash all fresh fruits and vegetables, whether they have a peel or not, with cool tap water just before eating.
- Cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating. Remove and discard outer leaves of lettuce.
- Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.
- Cut all fruits and vegetables on a separate cutting board from raw meats and fish. Color-coded cutting boards can help you remember which is which.
- Cook raw sprouts, such as alfalfa and clover, to significantly reduce the risk of illness.
Meat and Poultry
- When buying and handling meats, always look for the Safe Food Handling label on the package, and make sure the meat is tightly wrapped. At the grocery store, pick up the meat last and ask to have it bagged separately from other groceries to prevent cross-contamination.
- Store meat in the coldest part of the refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Use fresh, raw chicken within one- to two days of purchase, meats within three to four days, and throw away ground meats, sausage and organ meats after two days. Cooked meats should be eaten or frozen within three to four days.
- Wash hands thoroughly for 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat, and use a separate cutting board for raw meats and fish to avoid cross contamination.
- Defrost meats in the refrigerator or in the microwave by using the defrost setting. Never defrost on the counter. Cook meat that has been thawed in the microwave immediately and do not re-freeze thawed meat.
- Use a food thermometer to ensure meats are cooked to the safe minimum internal temperature. Find the correct temperature with the Is My Food Safe? app or the Safe Grilling Guide.
Learn more about food safety at www.HomeFoodSafety.org or by downloading the free Is My Food Safe? app (www.homefoodsafety.org/app), and encourage children to wash hands properly with the downloadable Hand Washing Maze.
- John A. Painter, Robert M. Hoekstra, Tracy Ayers, Robert V. Tauxe, Christopher R. Braden, Frederick J. Angulo, Patricia M. Griffin. Attribution of Foodborne Illnesses, Hospitalizations, and Deaths to Food Commodities by using Outbreak Data, United States, 1998–2008. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 2013; 19 (3) DOI: 10.3201/eid1903.111866
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