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    Retail Dietitians: Remind Shoppers that Foodborne Illness is No Picnic

    Do recent food recalls make your shoppers fearful about the safety of the food they buy? 

    While these serious incidents justifiably garner concern, consumers may not know that miscues in their own kitchens—failing to wash hands, cross-contaminating foods and not keeping foods at safe temperatures—are major causes of foodborne illnesses. About 48 million people (one in six) get sick each year from food eaten in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

    Foodborne illnesses increase during the summer for two reasons. First, bacteria that’s naturally present in the environment and on our bodies grow faster in warmer temperatures and flourish in moist, humid conditions. Second, more people are cooking outside without the safety tools found in their kitchens—thermostat-controlled cooking, refrigeration and washing facilities.

    The kickoff of summer grilling and picnicking season is the perfect time for shoppers to brush up on safe food handling practices. Sprinkle these tips from the Partnership for Food Safety Education’s Fight BAC! campaign into your cooking classes, articles and tweets.

    Clean: Wash Hands and Surfaces Often

    • Wash hands with warm, soapy water before handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers and handling pets.
    • When eating away from home, check for a source of potable (safe drinking) water. If none, bring water for preparation and cleaning. Or pack clean, wet, disposable washcloths or moist towelettes and paper towels for cleaning hands and surfaces.

    Separate: Don't Cross-Contaminate

    • When packing the cooler chest, wrap raw meats securely and don’t let raw meat juices come in contact with ready-to-eat food.
    • Wash plates, utensils and cutting boards that held raw meat or poultry before using again for cooked food.

    Cook: Cook to Safe Temperatures

    • Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often brown quickly on the outside. Use a food thermometer to make sure they reach the following safe minimum internal temperatures: steaks, chops and roasts: 145 °F; ground meat: 160 °F; poultry: 165 °F. 
    • Cook meat and poultry completely at the picnic site. Partially cooking food ahead of time lets bacteria survive and multiply to the point that later cooking can’t destroy them.

    Chill: Refrigerate Promptly

    • Keep cold perishables like luncheon meats, cooked meats, chicken, and potato or pasta salads in an insulated cooler packed with several inches of ice, ice packs or containers of frozen water.
    • Pack canned beverages and perishable foods in separate coolers because you’ll probably open the beverage cooler frequently.
    • Keep the cooler in the coolest part of the car. At the site, place it in the shade or shelter out of the sun.
    • Preserve the cold temperature of the cooler by replenishing the ice as soon as it starts melting.
    • No cooler? Consider taking fruits, vegetables, hard cheeses, canned or dried meats, dried cereal, bread, peanut butter, crackers and bottled beverages.

    Play it Safe with Leftovers

    • Food left out of refrigeration for more than two hours may not be safe to eat. When temperatures soar above 90 °F, don’t keep food out for more than one hour. After you eat, put leftover perishables back on ice so they don’t spoil or become unsafe to eat.

    Source: Fight BAC! Campaign, Partnership for Food Safety Education.

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