Prevention

It is important to prevent food-borne illness by cleaning, separating, cooking, and chilling foods appropriately. Hands and surface areas should be cleaned with hot soapy water, and food handlers must practice good personal hygiene and sanitary food preparation. Raw fruits and vegetables should be washed thoroughly, and unpasteurized milk, bulging cans, and foods showing signs of mold should always be avoided. In order to avoid cross-contamination, raw foods should be kept separate from cooked foods.

Hot foods should be kept hot (at or above 140 degrees Fahrenheit), and cold foods cold (at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit). Leftovers should be heated to at least 165 degrees before serving.

Ground meats should be cooked at or above 165 degrees. Cooking to proper temperatures and time will kill harmful bacteria that cause food-borne illness. Bacteria multiply rapidly between 40 and 140 degrees. However, the danger zone is between 60 and 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures in this zone allow rapid growth of bacteria and production of toxins by some bacteria. Therefore, foods should be refrigerated, since cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying. It is recommended that refrigerators be kept between 34 and 38 degrees, while freezers should be kept at 0 degrees. Most food-borne illnesses occur because of the ignorance or carelessness of people who handle food, and such illnesses can be easily prevented.

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