World Food Safety Day: Keeping You and Your Family Safe


June 5th, 2019

sepsis, food poisoning, World Food Safety Day

June 7 is World Food Safety Day, an initiative developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Infections from germs consumed when you eat or drink contaminated food can be severe. By protecting the food you eat, you protect yourself and reduce the risk of contracting infections.

As with many types of infections, foodborne illnesses can affect anyone, but people who are generally healthy are usually able to fight them off. People with an impaired or weakened immune system, the elderly, and young babies are less able to fight off the illness on their own. Some types of infections, such as listeriosis caused by Listeria, can be particularly dangerous for pregnant women. The women may not become seriously ill, but the infection can cause complications to the fetus.

More Than 250 Foodborne Diseases

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more than 250 foodborne diseases, most being infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites. With summer on the horizon, along with more casual eating and food preparation, the incidence of food-borne illnesses can increase. “One out of 6 Americans each year gets a foodborne illness,” says Shelley Feist, Executive Director, Partnership for Food Safety Education.  “For some people, including young children, a foodborne illness can be very serious. Some of the germs that cause foodborne illness are very common and continue to be present in food here [in the U.S.] – germs like Salmonella and Campylobacter.”

The most common types of foodborne illnesses are caused by norovirus, Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter and Staphylococcus aureus. Less common but causing even more serious illnesses are Clostridium botulinum (botulism), Listeria, Escherichia coli (E. coli), and Vibrio.

It is possible to reduce your risk of contracting a foodborne illness. “Common pathogens like salmonella can be found in many types of food,” explains Feist. “The important thing is that consumers be consistent in taking basic actions that help reduce the risk of illness from these pathogens – especially when handling raw foods. The Partnership’s Fight BAC campaign urges consumers to Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill to reduce the risk of foodborne illness at home. Every great meal or snack starts with washing hands with soap and water!”

Food Safety During a Natural Disaster

Summer time not only brings us days that bring us outdoors, with barbecues and picnics, but it also brings bad weather. From hurricanes and tornadoes to floods, people who are affected by these natural disasters may find themselves at higher risk for contracting an infection caused by contaminated food or water. Even a power outage overnight could put some food at risk for contamination. “Households should have a simple plan in place for managing perishable foods before a natural disaster strikes,” says Feist. “Things like having a thermometer in the refrigerator, freezing in advance chunks of ice, having coolers on hand. Our partners at the FDA have a great page on food safety in a natural emergency that can help your family be prepared.”

Prevention

Take the following steps to protect yourself, as outlined by the Partnership for Food Safety Education:

  • Wash your hands using warm water and soap to reduce germs that cause foodborne illness.
  • Rinsing poultry is not a safety step. It spreads germs around your kitchen.
  • To reduce risk of illness, use separate cutting boards, one for produce and one for meat or poultry.
  • Cook food to a safe internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer.
  • Keep a constant refrigerator temperature of 40 °F or below.

Keep in mind that spoiled food isn’t always obvious. It may not smell bad or look bad so, when in doubt, throw it out. Don’t take chances with your health.

Visit Sepsis and Food Poisoning, part of the Sepsis and… library, for more detailed information on foodborne illnesses, and Food Safety Day for more information on how to help spread the word.