September is National Food Safety Education Month!

September is National Food Safety Education Month, which seeks to heighten awareness about the importance of food safety education, including proper food handling procedures, and other food safety topics. Many members from unions who endorse FOA work in the food service profession in schools, hospitals, universities, and other institutions across the state and take great pride in providing nutritious, delicious and safely prepared meals to their students, patients and customers.

While the American food supply is among the safest in the world, the Federal government estimates that there are about 48 million cases of foodborne illness annually – that’s 1 in 6 Americans each year. Each year these illnesses result in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths, according to the FDA. Follow these tips on how to protect yourself from foodborne illnesses and contaminants:

• Buy Right. When it comes to buying produce, make sure you are making wise decisions at the grocery store. Purchase produce that has not been bruised or damaged. When selecting pre-cut produce, only choose those items that are refrigerated or surrounded by ice. Bag fresh fruits and vegetables separately from meats.
• Store Your Vegetables Properly. Store fruits and veggies in a clean refrigerator at 40⁰F or below. Use a fridge thermometer – these are usually built in.
• Separate For Safety. Keep fruits and vegetables separate from raw meat.
• Prepare Safely.Wash cutting boards, dishes, knives and other utensils and countertops after handling raw meat products.
• Use separate cutting boards for raw meat and raw vegetables.
• Cut away damaged areas of the fruits or veggies before preparing/eating.
• Wash all produce thoroughly under running water before cutting/cooking.
• Avoid Overpacking The Fridge. Cold air needs to circulate around the refrigerated foods.
• Check Expiration Dates on Foods. Discard any food that is past its “use by” date. “When in doubt, throw it out.”
• Clean the Fridge Frequently. Clean the fridge at least once a month and always clean up any spills immediately after they occur.
• Store Leftovers Immediately. The longer the food sits on the counter, the more rapidly bacteria will grow. Perishable food left out for more than 2 hours allows bacteria to multiply quickly.
• Thaw With Care.Because bacteria can multiply so rapidly in unrefrigerated foods, it is unsafe to allow food to thaw at room temperature. Some organisms can create toxins that can survive the cooking process.
• Three ways to thaw safely: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave.
• If you thaw in the fridge, change the water every half hour to make sure it stays cold.
• Pack Food Safely for a Picnic.As the weather heats up, picnics and barbecues are making their way onto our calendars. But these warm events present opportunities for foodborne bacteria to thrive. Here are some safe food handling tips:
• Keep Cold Food Cold. Place cold food in a cooler with ice or frozen packs.
• Organize Cooler Contents. Pack perishable foods in one container and beverages in another. Pack raw meats separately from vegetables or prepared foods.
• Keep Coolers Closed. This will help keep the cooler at a safe temperature.
• Clean Produce Before You Leave The House. Rinse fresh fruits and veggies prior to packing your basket.
• Follow Safe Grilling Tips:
• Steaks, fish and pork should be at 145⁰F.
• Ground beef and egg dishes should be at 160⁰F.
• Chicken breasts and whole poultry should be at 165⁰F.
• Shrimp, lobster and crab should be cooked until pearly and opaque.
• Clams, oysters and mussels should be cooked until their shells open. Discard any that do not open.

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