With the holidays upon us, cooks across the country are busy chopping, mixing and baking their holiday feast. Whether it’s turkey or tamales you are making, you’d be wise to follow some food preparations tips state health officials say will make your food safe as well as delicious to eat.
On Monday, California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Health Officer Dr. Ron Chapman reminded consumers that not following food safety recommendations could lead to foodborne illnesses, ruining the holidays, and more importantly, putting people at serious health risk.
“Bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and others can be present in foods, such as meat and poultry, and can cause illness due to insufficient cooking, inadequate cooling and improper food handling practices,” Chapman said. “Properly prepared and handled foods can assure us all a safe meal every day of the year.”
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in the United States, 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths are related to foodborne diseases annually. Most of those cases could have been avoided by proper food handling throughout the meal preparation process, say health experts.
Many people think that salmonella, E. Coli and other such illnesses come from unsafe practices during the processing stage at farms and factories, or at restaurants, but that’s not always the case. People are often sickened by foods prepared in their own home or by someone they know, and in most of those cases because someone failed to handle the food properly and that’s where the contamination started.
Simple safety steps in the kitchen, such as washing hands with soap and warm water before and after food preparation, and especially after handling raw foods, could be the difference between life and death.
State health officials advise consumers to clean all work surfaces, utensils and dishes with hot soapy water and to rinse with hot water after each use. They say it’s important to make sure that foods are cooked thoroughly, especially meat and poultry, and to refrigerate items between meals.
Consumers can find more information about food safety tips on the CDPH’s website.
Symptoms include fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea that may be bloody. Most infected people recover from foodborne illnesses within a week. Foodborne illnesses, can be more dangerous to the elderly, young children, pregnant women and anyone with a weak immune system, which makes it harder for them to fight off the sickness, and a higher risk for potentially life-threatening complications.
Additional resources for information on food safety include the Federal Food and Drug Administration Food Information line at 1-888-SAFEFOOD (1-888-723-3366) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). Consumers can also access the national Partnership for Food Safety Education’s “Fight BAC” (bacteria) Web page.