Dangerous food contamination is in the headlines almost every day. E ven the greenest most succulent vegetables can be full of bacteria. We will never be absolutely free from dangerous bacteria, but we can follow all the safety rules to be as safe as possible. For instance never use the same cutting board to prepare both meat and vegetables. Refrigerate all leftovers within two hours. And if your greens look limp and soft, throw them out. Buy only what you know you will cook and eat within a few days. Follow all the rules and your family will be at less risk.
We see reports of dangerous food contamination in the headlines almost every day. Listeria in the cantaloupes a week or so ago, a few months ago it was spinach and lettuce. How are we to be sure our family gets clean untainted food: Unfortunately we can’t. Even a through washing cannot wash bacteria away. Michael Doyle, microbiologist says washing wont help because he believes listeria is on the inside of the fruit and vegetable. He believes the bacteria gets inside the food when it is brought in warm from the field and washed in cold water dump tanks.
Doyle who is an expert in prevention of bacterial contamination says produce is the leading cause of food borne illnesses He brings up the spinach and lettuce fiasco in the U.S. and an outbreak of E.coli in the U.K. from broccoli, leeks and potatoes. Another outbreak in Germany sickened more than 4,000 people and killed nearly 50. Doyle stated that the reason we are seeing more outbreaks is because there is better testing. Many of these outbreaks would not have been detected before.
It is estimated there are 80 million cases of food borne illnesses in the U.S. each year. There are no estimates to say how many are caused by restaurant food. Data does show that at least half outbreaks are associated with restaurant food in hotels, delis and cafeterias. He notes that it’s a risk to eat anywhere the rating is less than an A. Foods eaten raw are a huge concern. If your salad looks limp and mushy, send it back and ask for a fresh one.
Some foods are particularly risky. Undercooked or raw meat should not be eaten, especially ground beef. Avoid unpasteurized milk products. And never use the same cutting board or knife to prepare meat and vegetables. Keep foods chilled under 40 degrees. Refrigerate any cooked food within 2 hours and reheat until hot and steaming.
Restaurants have stepped up training for employees in food safety. It’s good for business to display the A near the front door. But we have no way to be completely risk free from contaminated foods. We can buy the freshest most beautiful fruits and vegetables in the market and still be sickened. Following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s latest rules to keep our family safe from food bourn sickness is our best bet.
Articles by Ruby Hawk: