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Food-Related Illness: Playing It Safe

Who's at Risk? continued...

2. Always Wash Fresh Fruits and Vegetables (Even If They Come In Prewashed Packages).

Remember the spinach scare across the United States in the fall of 2006 that resulted in several deaths? Fruits and vegetables can have some of the most deadly food-related pathogens, particularly if they are washed or irrigated with water that is contaminated with animal or human feces. These germs can get into fruits and vegetables during processing or packaging. And if the workers who packed the fruits and vegetables into crates are ill, these germs go right onto the foods they are touching.

Scrub all fresh fruits and vegetables to remove germs and avoid illness. This means rewashing any pre-washed, packaged salads before serving, to remove bacteria and pesticides that remain on the leaves.

3. Be Aware of "At Risk" Foods.

There are certain risky foods you need to be cautious about, such as raw bean sprouts. No matter how fresh they are, dangerous bacteria can continue to grow and may carry pathogens. (Cooked bean sprouts may be OK.)

Raw eggs are another risky food, and should be avoided. Also risky are juices that are not pasteurized. During the pasteurization process, any food-related bacteria are killed.

4. Cook Foods Thoroughly.

Foods need to be cooked thoroughly to kill any dangerous bacteria. Eggs must be cooked until the yolk is firm. If you are reheating leftovers, bring them to 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill bacteria. Sauces and soups should be brought to a boil when they are reheated.

5. Keep Hot Foods Hot and Cold Foods Cold.

While foods may be safe immediately after cooking, if you allow them to stay on the counter for longer than two hours, deadly bacteria may start to reproduce. Store food immediately after cooking.

And keep cold foods cold. Do not defrost and then refreeze foods unless you first cook them.

6. Use Healthy Hygiene.

Before cooking or eating, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water (sing "Happy Birthday to You" to pass the time). Rub your hands together, as the friction of skin against skin will enable you to remove the germs. Also, wash hands frequently throughout the day.

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