Protect Yourself from Food Contamination
In recent years, contaminated foods have been making news. Some of the dangerous foods were imported from foreign countries, but many were grown and prepared in the United States. With everything from spinach and green onions to peanut butter making people sick, it’s no surprise many Americans are becoming concerned about the safety of our food supply.
These tips from the FDA can help you reduce your risk of becoming ill from the food you eat at home and in restaurants.
Do your own inspection
Be aware that fresh produce with bruises or breaks in the skin could be contaminated. This includes tomatoes and melons. The same goes for fresh eggs that are cracked and salad bar ingredients that aren’t kept clean and well-chilled.
This is one of the best ways to reduce the contamination risk. Wash even precut lettuce and other vegetables in bags with labels that say washing isn’t necessary. Wash fruits and vegetables in running water. A small scrub brush may help, but it's not necessary to use soap or other detergents.
Check out the source
Eating locally grown food is good for the planet because less energy is used to get it to market and the practice supports local farmers—but that doesn’t necessarily mean the fruit and vegetables at your farmers’ market are safer than supermarket produce.
When you buy direct, however, you can ask the producer how it was stored and specific questions regarding pesticide use.
Keep your kitchen clean
Wash your cutting boards, countertops, refrigerator interior, pots, and utensils regularly in hot, soapy water, especially after they’ve been in contact with raw meat, poultry, or seafood. Check your cutting boards. Replace those that have lots of cracks and crevices where bacteria can lurk.
The government website on recalls provides information on food recalls and safety alerts.
Buy seafood only from reputable vendors
When shopping for any kind of seafood and shellfish, buy from markets that get their supplies from state-approved sources. Avoid vendors who sell shellfish from roadside stands or the back of a truck.
Wash your hands
Before you handle food, lather up with soap and hot water, washing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Repeat after handling produce, meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs.
For more information, visit the U.S. government food safety website.
- Fincannon, Joy, RN, MN
- Hanrahan, Maura, MD