Since September is designated as Food Safety Awareness Month it provides the perfect time to share reminders about this serious topic. Who out there hasn’t experienced flu like symptoms and blamed it on something they ate? The truth is that most of the food borne illnesses begin with symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, and even fever. Taking a few minutes to reinforce some of the most important food safety rules will hopefully help you beat the odds of ever experiencing a foodborne illness.
The mis-handling of food is the most common reason for a foodborne illness to occur. This includes the result of consuming food that has been held at a temperature in the danger zone for more than two hours. The danger zone for the growth of bacteria has changed slightly since my last food safety update. The new numbers for the danger zone are between 41 and 139 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that cold foods need to be kept at 41 degrees or colder and hot foods must be maintained at 139 degrees or higher. Any temperature in between is considered the danger zone because bacteria multiply at a surprisingly high rate at those temperatures.
Another common cause for foodborne illnesses to occur is the mis-handling of food by a person with a communicable illness or poor hygiene. I remember when I was on my high school debate team many years ago. After participating in a tournament in Topeka our school was contacted because the person who was serving chili at the food stand that day had hepatitis. We all got shots to prevent us from coming down with the disease but not before our coach was also diagnosed with hepatitis. That incident certainly impressed me with the importance of proper hand washing and other food handling habits.
Take time during September and visit with your family about the importance of proper hand washing. I have taken the glow germ activity to some of the pre-schools in our community. After looking at the germs on their hands under a black light I have the youngsters wash their hands with soap and water. It just takes twenty to thirty seconds to properly wash your hands so make sure to be a role model in your family. One thing we also checked was just how effective the hand sanitizers are that have become so popular. After experimenting with the glow germ I am convinced that soap and warm water is the way to go.
Donna Krug is the Family and Consumer Science Agent with K-State Research and Extension – Barton County. You may reach her at (620)793-1910 or email@example.com