Updated: Oct 7
Do you think the food you buy from your local grocery store is safe, or do you trust them blindly? Do you read food labels before you buy food products? Know what goes on your plate to keep your loved ones safe.
This food safety education month, I hope to spread awareness regarding some of the more commonly known illnesses and how they get into your food. Understanding how these illnesses spread may change your course of action in buying food and protecting your family.
One of the most common foodborne illnesses is food poisoning. Many people have encountered it at least once, whether it might be themselves or someone around them. Yet, food poisoning is largely overlooked; one or two days of stomach trouble and poof, it is out of your system (CDC, 2021).
Have you ever wondered why it happens in the first place? Here are four reasons that might initiate food poisoning:
Poor hygiene: Throughout the last one and a half or two years of the coronavirus pandemic, we have grown to realize how important proper personal hygiene is. Proper personal hygiene protects us from very deadly diseases like COVID19 and minor illnesses like the common cold and flu (CDC, 2021).
Not using separate utensils for separate meats during preparation: Cross-contamination among different meats can be the cause of so many untimely sicknesses. Since most meats are prepared in very different facilities, they go through different protocols to execute disease prevention. Hence, mixing the meats when preparing them in your household is not a good idea (CDC, 2021). A poorly stored chicken can quickly transfer Salmonella to the lamb you might have stored to prepare tomorrow evening. Now that this chicken has contaminated the lamb, even if you discard the chicken, knowing that it has gone bad will not prevent the family from potential illness (CDC, 2021).
Not cooking food to the right temperature: Many households do not invest in a food thermometer because it is expensive or ‘too fancy.’ Due to this, many families do not know the correct internal temperature of the food they cook and potentially risk developing illnesses. Countless pathogens stay dormant in the food at certain temperatures (fungi can survive in a wide range of conditions in food). Only by achieving the desired cooking temperature can you be sure that you have killed enough pathogens to remove the risk of serving unsafe food to your family (CDC, 2021).
Not refrigerating perishable food: Not all foods can survive room temperature and be safe to consume, especially open food. Every food item has storage requirements written on them which should be strictly followed to minimise falling ill from consuming them. Make sure to seal these food items properly to avoid cross-contamination while refrigerated (CDC, 2021).
The most common cause of foodborne illness in Canada is the Norovirus, whereas Salmonella tops the illness chart in the USA. Both pathogens are responsible for much of the foodborne illnesses (Thomas, 2013). Chicken, beef and other fresh and/or raw animal products are the most common hosts to these pathogens. The ground versions of these meats are even more susceptible to pathogen attack since they have more surface area for bacterial growth.
So how do we keep our family safe?
If you can control these four steps, you can successfully reduce the risk of getting ill by any common foodborne illnesses.
Now you can enjoy the one thing we love doing with family, eating food!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, August 30). Food Safety Education month. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved September 20, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/education-month.html.
Thomas, M. K., Murray, R., Flockhart, L., Pintar, K., Pollari, F., Fazil, A., Nesbitt, A., & Marshall, B. (2013, July). Estimates of the burden of foodborne illness in Canada for 30 specified pathogens and unspecified agents, circa 2006. Foodborne pathogens and disease. Retrieved September 20, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3696931/.