The Washington Post reported today that the best defense against salmonellosis and other food-borne diseases is safe food handling. For 20 years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has been trying to get that message to consumers. But changes in the food industry and Americans’ eating habits make the job challenging. An estimated 76 million cases of food poisoning occur each year in the United States; some 5,000 are fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To avoid infection at home: Wash hands and utensils after preparing raw meat. Put hot-off-the-grill burgers onto a clean plate — not the one that held uncooked meat. Cook food thoroughly and serve hot food hot. Don’t thaw meat at room temperature. Scrub produce before slicing it.
For eating out, here are a few other tips:
Shun any fresh-cooked food that doesn’t arrive at your table piping hot. Ditto for any cold food that appears lukewarm.
Pass up foods with raw eggs — a common source of salmonella bacteria. Ceasar salads, hollandaise sauce and French silk pie are among foods that often contain them.
Doggie bags may seem like a good idea, but chuck any food that you can’t refrigerate within two hours. In summer heat, make that one hour.
For more information on safe food handling, see the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service’s Web site at www.fsis.usda.gov.