Food safety 101

Have you ever suffered from food poisoning? According to the 2013 NSF International Household Germ Study, more than 20 percent of foodborne illness outbreaks result from food that was consumed in the home. Registered dietitians are taught and trained extensively about food safety. The three main reasons for food foodborne illness are: poor personal hygiene, cross contamination, and incorrect time-temperature control. Below are some tips to lower your risk of foodborne illness.

Personal hygiene

Hand washing is a simple way to stay healthy. Before handling food, always wash your hands. Proper hand washing means scrubbing with warm water (at least 100°F) and soap for a minimum of 20 seconds. Avoid touching cell phones while preparing foods, as this will transfer unwanted pathogens onto the food. Always wash your hands before you eat.

Time and temperature control

The danger zone for food is between 41-135°F. Leaving food out for more than two hours at this temperature will harbor pathogenic microorganisms. In hot weather (above 90°F), that safety window is reduced to one hour. Refrigerators should be at or below 40°F. Freezers should be at or below 0°F. Always defrost meat or poultry in the refrigerator. On hot summer days, place your groceries in the back seat vs. the trunk. Never defrost meat on the counter-top, this will allow dangerous pathogens to multiply. Make sure you cook meat, poultry, pork and fish to the proper temperatures. Visit: to review the safe cooking temperatures.

Cross contamination

At the grocery store, place raw meat in the plastic bags provided. Keep the raw meat in a separate area of the grocery cart to avoid contact with other foods. Use separate cutting boards for raw meat and ready to eat foods. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw meat. Be mindful of touching sink faucets and soap dispensers with contaminated hands. Disposable gloves are a good option when handling raw meat. When grilling, use one plate for the raw meat and a clean plate for the cooked meat. This also applies to tongs and other serving utensils. Do not reuse marinades. Place your raw meat or poultry in a separate bowl or plate on the lower shelf of the refrigerator. This will prevent juices from dripping, leaking, and contaminating the other food in the refrigerator.

More tips:

-Avoid pre-cut fruit from the grocery store, this is one of the top sources of food contamination.

-Wash reusable grocery bags in hot water periodically.

-Wash produce thoroughly under cold water, especially those foods that you cut and peel such as melons and avocados. This will reduce the amount of bacteria that is transferred by the knife as it cuts through the fruit.

-Finally, “when in doubt, throw it out.”

Sara Gail is a registered dietitian, Daniel Island resident, and mother of two teenagers. She has her own private practice, Sara Gail Nutrition, and specializes in individual counseling, family counseling, and food sensitivity testing. Office location: 126 Seven Farms Drive Suite 160-B.

Daniel Island Publishing

225 Seven Farms Drive
Unit 108
Daniel Island, SC 29492 

Office Number: 843-856-1999
Fax Number: 843-856-8555


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