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How can I help avoid food-borne illnesses?

Foodborne illness causes almost 50 million illnesses, and sadly, 3,000 deaths, annually in the United States. Luckily, there are steps you can take to prevent food poisoning, especially when preparing a packed lunch.

Using a clean, insulated lunch box along with frozen ice packs are your best bet to help keep your edibles at a safe temperature until lunchtime. 

To lower your risk for food poisoning, these tips will help you pack a safe lunch:
  • Use an insulated, soft-side lunch bag or box, which are best for keeping food cold, according to the USDA.
  • Always use ice packs. Perishable foods such as yogurt, meats, and cut up fruits and vegetables, should remain chilled at 40 degrees F or below to slow down the rate that pathogens will multiply to dangerous levels.
  • Store your lunch in a refrigerator. If available, you should store your packed lunch in the refrigerator with the bag open. This will allow the chilly air to come in contact with the food to keep it cold until you are ready to eat it.
  • Forget about bringing home leftovers. Perishables that are left out at room temperature for more than two hours (likely the time it takes to not only eat the lunch but transport it home), should be tossed as they are unsafe to consume.
  • Ditch the sandwich bags. If you use plastic sandwich baggies, they should get tossed after each use to prevent cross contamination with another future food item.
  • Plastic containers, as well as the inside and outside of the lunch bag, should also be thoroughly cleaned with hot soapy water and rinsed clean in between uses according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics
Here are two videos with tips to help you avoid food-borne illnesses.

Four simple steps to prevent food-borne illnesses in your family kitchen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvtkbPBrH4I

Summer Produce - Food Safety Tips
http://www.youtube.com/watchv=QB35adOezro&feature=mh_lolz&list=FLSmUIt1qfSfY

Visit foodsafety.org for more tips on preventing food-borne illnesses
 
Doreen Rodo
Nutrition & Dietetics
Food-borne illness can't always be avoided, but here are some smart tips that may help:
  • Don't eat raw eggs
  • Be careful when handling raw meats and seafood-wash and rinse the cutting board, utensils and your hands before and after use. 
  • When you are finished working with uncooked meats/fish, sanitize the entire area.
  • Never use utensils that have touched raw items on those that will not be cooked. 
  • All cooked meats should have a separate utensil. 
  • Wash hands thoroughly prior to handling any food items and before eating (have hand sanitizer available for times when you can't wash)
  • Use a separate plate for raw and cooked items
  • Don't work with raw food and uncooked foods at the same time
Make sure that meats are cooked to the appropriate internal temperature:
  • Pork, beef, lamb, fish and shell eggs to 145 degrees
  • All poultry, including ground and all microwavable items to 165 degrees
  • Ground beef and other ground meats (except poultry) to 155 degrees
Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo
Nutrition & Dietetics
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year 1 in 6 Americans (48 million) gets sick from foodborne diseases. You can avoid foodborne illness by practicing these five food safety tips:
  1. Easiest and most effective way to prevent food-borne illness is to wash your hands both before and after preparing food. Singing the "Happy Birthday" song or reciting the ABCs can help stretch your hand washing for the recommended 20 seconds.
  2. Keep cold foods cold (between 32 and 39 degrees) and hot foods hot (above 140 degrees). Remember, it's safe to bite when the temperature is right.
  3. Prevent cross contamination by avoiding contact between foods that have already been cooked or that won't be cooked, such as salad ingredients, from raw foods such as meats and their juices.
  4. Cook foods thoroughly. The best way to know is to use a thermometer. Temperature rules: Beef and egg dishes 160 degrees; ground turkey and chicken 165 degrees; and chicken and turkey breasts 170 degrees.
  5. After a meal, foods should be refrigerated promptly. Respect the 224 rule:  store leftovers 2 hours/2 inches/4 days. In other words, refrigerate within 2 hours of serving, no more than a depth of 2 inches in the dish, and up to 4 days.  
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
You can help avoid food-borne illnesses completely by practicing these 3 food safety tips:

Food safety at the beach
  • Practice LIFO: Last in, first out. In other words, pack your cooler with what you're going to eat first on top.
  • Bury your cooler or lunch bag partway in the sand and shade it with an umbrella.
Food safety in the kitchen
  • Wash hands thoroughly with warm soapy water for 20 seconds before and after food preparation.
  • Wrap meats in protective coverings like butcher paper or plastic wrap and place on a low shelf in the fridge to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Allocate separate color-coded cutting boards for meat, salads, etc.
Food safety on the grill
  • Use a meat thermometer with a sensor at the tip so you get an accurate reading inside the meat.
  • Cook beef to 160 degrees; cook chicken to at least 165 degrees until juices run clear.
This content originally appeared on doctoroz.com

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.