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Food Safety Basics

Food Safety

You might have heard about food recalls in the news, but sometimes it can be difficult to understand how this impacts you and your family. A recent recall of prepared vegetable products sold at stores like Walmart and Trader Joe’s affected consumers in Canada and multiple states in the U.S. The food manufacturer voluntary recalled the products due to a positive listeria finding during a random inspection in order to keep the public safe, but what else can you do personally to prevent foodborne illness?

What is foodborne illness?

Foodborne illness originates from eating a food contaminated with a virus or bacteria. Food can become contaminated during processing, handling, through improper cooking or cooling methods, or as a result of contaminated water sources. Foodborne illness ranges in severity and can be as mild as stomach upset or as serious as kidney failure and death.

Who is at risk?

Individuals with weakened immune systems (like those with cancer or HIV/AIDS), the elderly, pregnant women, and young children are at highest risk for contracting and having serious effects from foodborne illnesses. If you fall into one of these categories or care for and feed someone who does, paying attention to food safety is of vital importance.

How do I prepare food safely at home?

Tips for safe preparation of food include frequent handwashing and keeping raw and cooked foods separate. Use different cutting boards for raw foods and ready to eat foods. Wash hands when moving from preparation of raw meats to other foods. When it comes to cooking food, make sure you cook food to the proper internal temperature to kill off any harmful bacteria. See the chart below for common food products and recommended internal temperatures:

Food Product Recommended Internal Temperature

GROUND Beef, Pork, Veal, Lamb 160° F

GROUND Turkey, Chicken 165° F

Fresh Beef (like a steak) 145° F

Whole Poultry (chicken, duck, goose) 165° F

Fish 145° F

Shellfish (crab, shrimp, scallops) Cook until flesh is opaque and firm

One way to ensure food is cooked to the proper temperature is to invest in a digital kitchen thermometer. These are sold at most grocery stores for less than $10.00 and can save you a lot of heartache (and stomachache for that matter) by ensuring your food is cooked properly!

How do I know a food has been recalled?

If you or someone you care for is at high risk for foodborne illness, keeping up to date with the latest food recalls is important. One way to ensure you hear about food recalls when they happen is to sign up for alerts through the FDA’s food safety/recall webpage. Use this link:, their subscription management service, to sign up for alerts based on your own preferences.

Food safety and the Holidays

As the holidays approach, food safety becomes even more important since food at parties, gatherings, and events is often left out for hours at a time despite the fact that it may be perishable. Tips for food safety during the holidays include:

-Continue all food safety precautions like hand washing and cooking food to appropriate internal temperatures

-Cool foods in wide, shallow containers to promote rapid cooling in the refrigerator

-Discard leftover perishable items that have been left out for greater than 2 hours

-Store leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer. Use from the fridge within a few days, from the freezer within a month

-Never thaw foods on the counter top at room temperature. Always thaw in the microwave or refrigerator.

Stay safe with these tips and ensure you have an enjoyable holiday season!



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