5 Tips for Preventing Foodborne Illness This National Food Safety Education Month

Each year, about 48 million people in the United States alone get sick from contaminated foods, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That number is even bigger when the entire world is accounted for. Foodborne illness, sometimes referred to as food poisoning, is extremely common. Most cases can be prevented by proper food handling, storage, and preparation. That’s why September is observed as National Food Safety Education Month. In this article, we’ll cover five of the most effective tips to prevent foodborne illness and keep you and your loved ones safe.

Cook it Right

One of the easiest ways to prevent foodborne illness is to ensure your food is cooked properly. High temperatures kill the harmful bacteria and viruses that may live in or on your food. Of course, you also want your food to taste good. This means charring it to a crisp to kill bacteria isn’t an option. General guidelines for cooking temperatures have been established for each type of food. Since different types of germs live in different foods, each requires a unique safe cooking temperature.

Here are a few key points to pay attention to:

  • Steaks and roasts should be cooked to a minimum of 145 degrees F
  • Ground meat should be cooked to at least 160 degrees F (due to more bacteria spreading during the grinding process)
  • Poultry should be cooked to at least 165 degrees F
  • Fish should be cooked to 145 degrees F
  • Leftovers should be reheated to at least 165 degrees F with no cold spots
  • Eggs should be cooked until both the yolk and white are no longer runny

Clean it All

Cooking is the best way to deal with pathogens that may already be in your food. But it is also important to avoid contaminating your food while you’re cooking. Cleaning is a crucial part of stopping the spread of foodborne illness. This is why restaurants must follow set cleaning guidelines and procedures. In your home kitchen, you should be doing the same. This includes washing your hands frequently. Using hot water and soap, combined with a thorough scrub for 20 seconds, cleans your hands of any dangerous germs. Cleaning doesn’t just mean your hands, though. You should also take care to clean your cooking surfaces, cutting boards, and utensils after using them and between different foods. Finally, you should also be cleaning certain foods. Fresh produce may contain soil and bacteria that can make you sick. It’s a good idea to scrub these items under running water with a clean brush or your hands.

Avoid Cross Contamination

We’ve discussed why cleaning is important. However, there are times when you’re cooking and don’t have time to stop and clean everything as you go. That’s okay. However, you must maintain a clean work area while you’re cooking. Certain foods, such as raw meat and eggs, are more likely to carry germs that can make you sick. This means you should always keep them separate from other foods, especially those that don’t get cooked to the same temperatures like veggies and fruits. Though this might seem like common sense, it can be easy to accidentally set your veggies down on the same cutting board you used for your chicken. That can lead to contamination with harmful bacteria, such as salmonella. When in the kitchen, do your best to keep your foods separate and promptly clean up any surfaces that were in contact with raw meats or unwashed produce.

Refrigerate Properly

Both before and after cooking, keeping your food at a safe temperature is very important. Refrigeration is one of the best ways to stop the growth of bacteria and decrease your risk of getting a foodborne illness. Not all temperatures are alike, though. Foods in the fridge should be kept at 40 degrees F or below. Freezer foods should be kept at 0 degrees F or below. Meanwhile, it is also important to make sure foods don’t stay unrefrigerated for too long. The Partnership for Food Safety Education recommends keeping food at room temperature for more than two hours. That window shrinks to just one hour when it’s hot out.

Know When to Seek Care

Despite our best efforts, preventing foodborne illness sometimes isn’t always possible. If you or a loved one start feeling the symptoms, it’s important to recognize them and take the proper steps to get yourself on the road to recovery.

Some of the most common symptoms of foodborne illness include:

  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Fever
  • Fatigue

Due to fluid loss through vomiting and diarrhea, your body also tends to get dehydrated quickly when dealing with food poisoning. As such, hydration is an essential part of recovering and stopping the illness from getting worse.

Most cases of food poisoning resolve on their own in a few days after your body has time to fight and eliminate the bacteria or virus. However, if you still aren’t feeling good after about a week, it may be time to go see a doctor. You should also consult a doctor if you start having signs of severe dehydration, such as dizziness, rapid heart rate, decreased urination, or confusion.

Velocity Urgent Care Has Your Back

If you or a loved one is feeling sick, Velocity Urgent Care is ready to help. We offer a wide range of treatment options to help get you back on your feet. Our skilled and friendly providers will perform a thorough exam to determine what’s causing your illness and then prescribe the appropriate treatment. We can also refer you to a specialist within the Sentara Healthcare network for more specific care—no primary care appointment needed. We offer convenient online registration that helps you limit your contact with others during your visit. You can sign up for an appointment online to skip the waiting room and arrive when it’s your turn to be seen. Velocity Urgent Care even offers text message updates so you can wait in the car (if you prefer) until it’s time for your appointment.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are taking serious safety precautions to ensure that our locations are as clean as possible. We’ve put strict sterilization protocols into place and are carefully handling patients who may be contagious to ensure that each one of our clinics is safe for those who need urgent medical care or occupational health services.

Velocity Urgent Care is an in-network provider for most major insurance plans, meaning you can be seen for the cost of your co-pay and deductible.

All our locations also accept Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare. Veterans Administration beneficiaries are also welcome.

To learn more about our services, locations, hours, and more, visit www.velocityuc.com.