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Each year about 76 million Americans become ill from eating foods contaminated by bacteria, viruses or parasites, the National Institutes of Health reports. About 5,000 die. However, safe food handling, preparation and storage practices can greatly decrease the risks of food-borne illness. Here are seven ways to prepare your food safely:
- Wash your hands before and after handling food. Be certain to wash hands after handling raw meat, poultry, fish, seafood and eggs. Hand washing at least 20 seconds in warm, soapy water eliminates nearly half of food-borne illnesses, as well as significantly reducing the spread of cold and flu viruses according to the ADA.
- Wash cooking items such as cutting boards with hot soapy water between food items.
- Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly.
- Raw meats and poultry do not need to be washed. Washing can spread bacteria to other foods, surfaces and utensils.
- Separate raw meat, poultry, fish, seafood and eggs and their juices from ready-to-eat foods. Use one cutting board for fresh fruits and vegetables and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, fish, seafood and eggs. Do not place cooked food on a plate that held raw meat, poultry, fish, seafood or eggs unless you first wash the plate with hot, soapy water.
- Cook meat to recommended internal temperatures, to destroy bacteria beef , 145 °F; ground beef, veal and lamb, 160 °F; pork,160 °F; poultry, 165 °F; fish and seafood, 145 °F; eggs, 160 °F; and leftovers,165 °F . Check internal temperatures with a food thermometer.
- Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator, not at room temperature. Place in a container to prevent juices, which may contain harmful bacteria, from contaminating other food. Food may also be thawed in a microwave and cooked right away.