BY CHRYSTLE FIEDLER
DID YOU KNOW that one in six Americans
will get sick from food poisoning this year
alone? Even though the American food supply
is among the safest in the world, the federal
government estimates that there are about 48
million cases of foodborne illness annually; the
symptoms include abdominal cramps, nausea
and vomiting, diarrhea, fever and dehydration.
Blaine Grisak, 21, a senior at Gwynedd Mercy
University in Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania,
got sick last summer and landed in the emergency room. He says, “It was probably the
worst stomach bug I’ve ever had.”
What exactly causes
The norovirus is responsible for 58 percent of foodborne illnesses in the U.S. and
approximately 50 percent of foodborne disease outbreaks. “It’s passed person to person
because of improper food handling and preparation,” says Benjamin Chapman, assistant
professor of food safety at North Carolina
State University and a food safety specialist at
the North Carolina Cooperative Extension. “It
happens when an infected worker touches raw
fruits and vegetables or foods after they are
cooked and before serving them.” Grisak, for
example, got sick after eating out one night.
Fruits and vegetables can also be contam-
inated by sewage in untreated water, and less
often by parasites, mold, chemical toxins and
contaminants in food. It’s especially impor-
tant to be vigilant about food safety around
the winter holidays, says Chapman. “The
norovirus is more stable, and more infectious,
in colder weather.”
Follow the four steps—clean, separate,
cook and chill—recommended on foodsafety.
gov and you can reduce your risk of food-
Wash hands with soap and water for 20
seconds—try singing “Happy Birthday” twice.
Scrub vigorously to get rid of bacteria, and dry
your hands with a clean towel or air-dry.
Clean cooking and prep surfaces to stop
bacteria. Rinse thoroughly, then sanitize with
paper towels or a designated sponge.
Wash fruits and veggies, but not
meat, poultry or eggs. Otherwise, bacteria can spread from the outside to the
inside when you cut and peel.
Use separate cutting boards, plates
and utensils for produce, raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs. “One of the most
common causes of food poisoning is cross-contamination,” says Jeff Nelken, a noted
food safety restaurant consultant. “Which
means that the juices from raw
chicken or meat get into salads.”
Keep meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all
other foods. If you don’t, bacteria will spread if the juices of
raw meat, poultry, seafood and
Use a food thermometer to know if
food has been cooked at a high enough temperature to kill bacteria. All areas of the food
need to reach a minimum temperature.
Once food is cooked, keep it at 140 F or
higher, as bacteria grow quickly at cooler
temperatures. Use a chafing dish or a warming tray.
Refrigerate promptly—within two
hours—so cold temperatures slow the growth
of bacteria. Store food in sections, so air circulates and the food cools more completely.
Know the temperature of your fridge. It
should be between 32 and 40 F to control the
growth of bacteria. Not sure if it’s cold
enough? Use an appliance thermometer.
Don’t thaw foods on the counter. Thaw
food in the fridge or microwave, put it into
water that’s below 41 F or cook it frozen. It
will take longer, but it can be safer. Marinate
food in the fridge, not on the counter.
Know when to throw food out. Check
on correct food storage times for the refrigerator and freezer here: foodsafety.gov/keep/
charts/ storagetimes.html. The old adage “If in
doubt, throw it out” is a good one.
Chrystle Fiedler is a writer and author who
specializes in health and wellness topics.
can be a recipe
FOR YOUR HEALTH