According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 128,000 people are hospitalized each year due to E. coli, salmonella, listeria, and other food borne illnesses. Three thousand of them die. This is a sobering statistic. Ten years ago I spent three days in the hospital due to food poisoning. It’s not an experience I ever want to repeat or want anyone else to experience.
So here are some tips on food safety:
1. Buy whole produce only. I know it’s tempting to purchase that cut watermelon or cantaloupe because it’s easy to see if it’s sweet by looking at the color and texture of the fruit. But it’s not a good idea. The contamination risk of pre-cut produce is much higher.
2. Always place meats and produce in the plastic bags supplied by the store, even though the food comes pre-packaged. Those grapes and cherries that come in plastic bags with air holes can become contaminated when you place them in your shopping cart.
3. If you’re using reusable shopping bags, make sure you wash them frequently. They’re great for the environment, but any food particles inside them will quickly grow all sorts of nasty stuff in the heat of your trunk.
4. And speaking of trunks, don’t place your groceries in your trunk on hot days. Put them on your backseat where it’s cooler, and there’s more airflow.
5. Don’t rinse chicken and eggs before using them. Any bacteria on the chicken can splash to your faucets and countertops, and bacteria on eggshells can be absorbed into the egg washed. Eggs are washed and sanitized before their shipped to markets.
6. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling raw foods. A good rule of thumb is to sing the birthday song to yourself twice as you’re lathering up. And don’t forget to wash between your fingers and the tops of your hands.