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What you don't know about food safety
Erie Times-News - 9/13/2017
We all have experienced symptoms of the 24-hour flu: vomiting and diarrhea, stomach cramps, fever and chills, and feeling just plain miserable.
In fact, about 48 million Americans are sickened by food-borne illness every year.
Many of these illnesses occur because of some old-school thinking or myths. Some of these illnesses occur from mistreating foods that we didn't even know could grow bacteria.
Here are a few lesser known facts about food safety:
1. Cooked pasta, potatoes, veggies, beans, and raw sprouts must be handled the same way that cooked meats are handled.
These foods must be held hot (135 degrees or above) or cold (41 degrees or below), or they will grow bacteria that release toxins that aren't destroyed by future cooking. Also included are popular cooked grains like quinoa, couscous and barley.
2. Do not wash chicken or meats. This practice is unnecessary because any bacteria found on chicken and meat will be killed during the cooking process.
The greater danger is that those bacteria are spread throughout the sink, and will contaminate fruits and veggies waiting to be washed.
3. A digital thermometer must be used to ensure that foods are fully cooked. We all have our own ways of checking our chicken and meats to see if they're done, but the most accurate way to ensure safe food is to check the temperature.
In addition to ensuring safe food, you are also more likely to have tastier, juicier food that's not dried out from overcooking. Thermometers are available at most grocery or retail stores.
4. Contaminated food usually doesn't smell bad. Pathogenic, or disease causing, bacteria like Salmonella and E.coli don't have any odor at all.
Just because a food looks, smells and tastes great doesn't mean that it isn't harboring bacteria or viruses.
5. If you have been sick with any gastrointestinal illness, you can spread it to people through the food that you are preparing. If you're not feeling well, let someone else cook, order out or reschedule.
Jenna Snider is an environmental protection specialist with the Erie County Department of Health.