Practicing proper food safety with all foods, including raw meat, can prevent foodborne illnesses. (Photo via Metro)
Practicing proper food safety with all foods, including raw meat, can prevent foodborne illnesses. (Photo via Metro)

VAN WERT – In 2018, a food that many consider a healthy option, romaine lettuce, was linked to several illnesses due to E. coli contamination. As the new year is well underway, many are opting for healthy eating to maintain their New Year’s resolutions, but some may wonder how to be safe while choosing these options. Stop Foodborne Illness, a public health organization that focuses on preventing illness and death from foodborne pathogens, recently released tips on how to eat safely, while eating healthy.

“Having good nutritional goals is a fabulous way to engage your life any time of year,” said literature provided by Stop Foodborne Illness. “However, Stop believes the value of awareness and being food safe cannot be overstated. Choose safely. Handle safely. Cook safely. Store safely. When in doubt throw it out.”

A foodborne illness is an illness caused by pathogenic bacteria, viruses, or parasites that contaminate food. People who consume this contaminated food may experience a variety of symptoms depending on the contamination.

When handling foods at home, there a several tips people can use to avoid foodborne illnesses.

First, always start with washing your hands with soap and water. This cuts down on bacteria that can be transferred to yourself or to the food.

“Clean your countertop, cutting boards, and utensils before cutting and chopping produce,” stated Stop Foodborne Illness information. “Use clean potable cold water to wash your produce. For fruit and vegetables with thick skin, scrub with a vegetable brush to remove dirt and microbes. Produce that needs a gentler touch (leafy greens, berries, broccoli, etc.) can be soaked for a few minutes in clean cold water and dried with a clean paper towel or salad spinner. Even produce to be peeled, like melon or avocado, needs to be washed. Once produce is cut or peeled, refrigerate as soon as possible.”

According to Stop Foodborne Illness, bacteria grows fastest in the range of 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit. Making sure the refrigerator is set at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit can help protect most foods.

It’s also important to cook foods to proper temperatures. Each type of meat has its own specific temperature that deems it safe for consumption.

Ground meat and meat mixtures should reach 160 degrees Fahrenheit, fresh, raw, whole cuts of red meat and fish and shellfish should reach 145 degrees Fahrenheit, and chicken and poultry should reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Failing to cook these foods to these temperatures could result in bacteria that cause illness to survive inside.

“Just because your food looks done doesn’t mean it is done,” stated Stop Foodborne Illness. “The only way to know if your meat, poultry, and egg dishes are safely cooked is to use a food thermometer.”

Stop Foodborne Illness also suggested that food be reheated thoroughly by using a food thermometer and that leftovers should be cooled as soon as possible to prevent bacteria.

“Remember that your leftovers in the fridge will last safely for four days max,” stated the literature. “After that, do one of two things: Freeze them or throw them away.”