Sep 142011

When you are ready to prepare a delicious meal for yourself or your family, make sure to follow some simple, safety rules. After all, these rules save lives; save money; and why waste good olive oil on a potentially infested dish.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a great website that keeps up-to-date information on the latest diseases and prevention methods. They have a little of everything on their site: from simple-to-understand instructions and educational materials to in-depth research for the scholarly reader. I really enjoy this site and find myself absorbed in the information and forgetting to do things, like write my Olive Crazy article for the day.

Here are five tips for protecting yourself and your family from foodborne illnesses.

CLEAN: Wash produce. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables in running tap water to remove visible dirt and grime. Remove and discard the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage. Because bacteria can grow well on the cut surface of fruits or vegetables, be careful not to contaminate these foods while slicing them up on the cutting board, and avoid leaving cut produce at room temperature for many hours. Don’t be a source of foodborne illness yourself. Wash your hands with soap and water before preparing food. Avoid preparing food for others if you have diarrhea. Don’t change a baby’s diaper while preparing food. It is a bad idea and can easily spread illness.

SEPARATE: Don’t cross-contaminate one food with another. Avoid cross-contaminating foods by washing hands, utensils, and cutting boards after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry and before they touch another food. Put cooked meat on a clean platter, not back on one that held the raw meat.

COOK: Meat, poultry, and eggs thoroughly. Using a thermometer to measure the internal temperature of meat is a good way to be sure that it is cooked sufficiently to kill bacteria: 145°F for whole meats (allowing the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or consuming), 160°F for ground meats, and 165°F for all poultry. Eggs should be cooked until the yolk is firm.

CHILL: Refrigerate leftovers promptly. Bacteria can grow quickly at room temperature, so refrigerate leftover foods if they are not going to be eaten within 4 hours. Large volumes of food will cool more quickly if they are divided into several shallow containers for refrigeration.

REPORT: Report suspected foodborne illnesses to your local health department. The local public health department is an important part of the food safety system. Often, calls from concerned citizens are how outbreaks are first detected. If a public health official contacts you to find out more about an illness you had, your cooperation is important. In public health investigations, it can be as important to talk to healthy people as to ill people. Your cooperation may be needed even if you are not ill.

May the sun shine through your branches.