I was having breakfast with a friend, when she asked me why there have been so many recent outbreaks of foodborne illness from bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella. It was a good question, and one she’s not alone in asking.
There are two, main reasons why we’ve seen a spike in foodborne disease:
- People are eating more fruit and vegetables year round, leading to an increase in imports from countries with lesser safety standards than the U.S.
- The growing organic movement, where people are consuming more and more minimally-processed foods
What’s curious is, today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has fewer than one-tenth the inspectors used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to check for traces of bacteria in meat and poultry plants, and that’s ironic, since more than 85 percent of food poisoning is linked to fruit, vegetable and seafood products vs. meat and poultry. This begs a bigger question currently being debated on Capitol Hill, and that’s whether or not the FDA is being run effectively and if more than one food safety authority is needed.
Until that question is answered, there are things you can do to minimize risk of foodborne illnesses and keep you and your family safe:
- Don’t be the source of foodborne illness. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 30 seconds before preparing any food
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water, and remove and discard the outer leaves of leafy vegetables like cabbage and lettuce
- Scrub firm produce including melons and cucumbers. Cutting an unwashed melon can spread surface bacteria through the fruit
- Cook meat, poultry and eggs thoroughly. Cooking a food at 160 degrees will kill E. coli
- Don’t cross-contaminate one food with another. Wash hands, utensils and cutting boards after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry
- Refrigerate leftovers promptly
The above is just a primer, so if you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to ask!