Friday, March 30, 2012

Preventing foodborne illness

Romina Gieseman, Nurse Practitioner
 As outdoors temperatures suddenly rise, the school lunches we prepare for our children and food storage needs more attention. Foodborne illness rises in the spring because with warmer temperatures the risk of bacterial growth on food rises. Spring is a good time to make sure lunch bags are disinfected and our refrigerators and shelves are purged of expired condiments, oils and foods.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and, stored food and leftovers are increasingly the reason for foodborne illness. Many families store restaurant leftovers in the fridge longer than they should be.

It is also important to be aware that a trip to the grocery store in warmer weather means that food will grow bacteria at a faster rate. It only takes 20 minutes for bacteria to start growing on food so bring those groceries home immediately and store restaurant leftovers in the fridge as soon as possible.

Here are some tips to avoid foodborne illness at home:

• Buy a food thermometer and learn proper cooking temperatures from
• Bring a cooler with an ice pack to the grocery store to transport meats in your car.
• Rinse off all fruit and vegetables to remove dirt and pesticides and store them in the fridge when dry, wrapped in paper towels inside Ziploc bags.

• Do not store and heat restaurant leftovers in the same carton from the restaurant. Use airtight containers and heat to 140 degrees.
• Do not keep cooked foods, open packages of meat, soups, salads or leftovers for longer than 3 days.
• Most frozen foods keep safely for up to two months. Get in the habit of labeling your food and writing the date on it.
• Always place a cold pack in lunches to keep food fresh and cold.
• Keep utensils and countertops clean. Use a solution of one tablespoon of bleach to one gallon of water.
• Wash hands and surfaces immediately with hot soapy water after touching raw meat and poultry.
• Remember that food products do not have to smell bad to be expired or rancid.
• Store all food in airtight containers and store oils and nuts in a dark, cool place and away from the stove.
• Infant formula can also spoil rapidly without detection by parents. Do not let formula sit in the sun or warm place.

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