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One in six Americans will get food poisoning this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Before you start blaming undercooked hamburgers and runny eggs for all those cases of food poisoning, make sure you have your facts straight.
The truth is most foodborne illness is actually caused by Norovirus, not raw meat or undercooked eggs. Norovirus is highly contagious and can spread via food if an infected person doesn't wash his or her hands before handling food.
Food poisoning can also be a result of improper preparation, cooking or storage of foods. Help protect yourself and your family against food poisoning by following good food safety practices. That means learning to separate fact from fiction and understanding the basics of why good food turns bad.
Myth: A “sniff test” can help you determine if food is spoiled.
Despite what you may have learned from mom, you may not be able to smell when food is bad and the germs and toxins that cause food poisoning cannot be seen with the naked eye. Because food poisoning is so difficult to detect, your best bet is to try to prevent it by following the four rules of food safety: Chill, Separate, Clean and Cook.
Chill: Bacteria grow more quickly at temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F. That's why it's important to keep food properly chilled at 40 °F or lower. Food is usually safe out of refrigeration for two hours (or one hour if the air temperature is 90 °F or higher); but it's best to keep it chilled. Food that has been left out of the refrigerator for longer should be thrown out.
Separate: Keep fresh produce and ready-to-eat foods away from raw meat and poultry at all times, including in the grocery cart, in the refrigerator and on the counter. Uncooked meat and poultry can spread illness by transferring bacteria to other food and kitchen surfaces. If possible, designate separate knives and cutting boards for produce and meat.
Clean: Before cooking, eating in or dining out, be sure to wash your hands carefully. Wash knives, cutting boards and cooking surfaces after each use. Always wash fresh produce, including fruit and vegetables you plan to peel.
Cook: Cooking food to a high internal temperature helps kill bacteria that may live in raw meat and poultry. Remember to cook to 160 °F for ground beef and egg dishes, and to 165 °F for poultry and leftovers.
How do you do food safety? Tell us your techniques in the comments!
Most recent update: 12/19/2017
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