Food Safety 101

Common foodborne germs & illness

Foodborne illnesses come from foods contaminated with disease-causing germs or toxins.

Common foodborne germs and their food sources include:

  • Salmonella – raw & lightly-cooked eggs, meat, poultry, nuts, sprouts, some fruits and vegetables
  • Listeria – unpasteurized dairy products, including soft cheeses with unpasteurized milk, sprouts, deli meats, hot dogs, smoked seafood, meat spreads
  • E. Coli – contaminated food such as undercooked ground beef, unpasteurized milk and juices, raw fruits and veggies, soft cheeses, and contaminated water (drinking untreated water and swimming in contaminated water).
  • Clostridium perfringens – beef, poultry, gravies, and foods left for long periods at room temperature, steam tables, or time/temperature-abused foods.
  • Campylobacter – unpasteurized milk, chicken, shellfish, turkey, and contaminated water.
  • Staphylococcus aureus (Staph) – people carrying this bacteria on their skin who do not follow proper hand washing practices can contaminate any food they touch, especially foods that are not cooked after being handled. Foods at higher risk include, sliced meats, puddings, pastries, and sandwiches.
  • Clostridium botulinum (botulism) – honey, improperly canned/preserved foods that include low-acid vegetables, fermented fish, herb-infused oils, cheese sauce, bottled garlic.

Who’s at risk?

Everyone who consumes contaminated food is at risk, however, those older than 65, under 5 years old, people with compromised immune systems, and pregnant women are at a higher risk for contracting a foodborne illness.

Symptoms of food poisoning 

Not feeling so hot after a meal? While it could take anywhere from hours to days to develop symptoms, experiencing nausea, stomach cramps, upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or fever could be signs of a foodborne illness. The onset of symptoms may depend on the type of germ, but if symptoms are severe contact your healthcare provider. 
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How to be safe

Some foods pose a higher risk than others, and for this reason, there are safe food handling practices in place to prevent food poisoning. Proper food safety practices start at the grocery store and ends in the kitchen, but there are also tips to keep in mind when dining out!

Safe shopping 

  • Buy from reputable sources
  • Wash hands and clean the handle of the grocery cart/basket with provided wipes and/or sanitizer at the entrance
  • Choose non-perishable items first
  • Inspect produce as well as packaging of other foods
  • Check expiration dates
  • Get food home within 30 minutes, otherwise pack a cooler bag
  • For farmers markets, go early to avoid items sitting out in the heat too long

Kitchen safety

  • Clean hands, surfaces, and wash fresh fruits and veggies under running water
  • Separate raw meats, seafood, and eggs from other foods both in the shopping cart and at home (think cutting boards and placement in the fridge) to prevent cross contamination
  • Cook to the right internal temperature in order to kill germs that can cause illness, and use a thermometer to ensure the proper internal temperature
  • Chill perishable foods within 2 hours (or 1 hour if outside in 90 degrees or above) and only thaw foods in the refrigerator, in cold water, or the microwave. Note: Never thaw at room temperature.

Dining out

  • Inspection scores matter and can be found on your health department’s website
  • Look for visible signs of food safety training certificates in-house
  • Be aware of how employees are handling food
  • Check that foods with raw items have been pasteurized, such as eggs
  • Refrigerate leftovers with 2 hours and consume within 3-4 days