Northern Westchester Hospital Dietitian Shares Tips to Prevent Foodborne Illnesses

Posted on: August 28, 2014

Keeping Your Food Safe

By Stephanie Perruzza, MS, RD, CDN

Stephanie Perruzza MS, RD, CDN Northern Westchester Hospital

Every year, one in six Americans (about 48 million) gets sick from foodborne illnesses and 128,000 are hospitalized, according to the Center of Disease Control. The good news is most foodborne illnesses can be prevented with simple food safety tips. September is National Food Safety Month, which focuses on the importance of increasing food safety awareness.

Children, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems are often more susceptible to foodborne illness. To reduce your risk, follow these simple steps:

• Clean your hands and all cooking surfaces (counters, utensils, cutting boards) with hot soapy water before preparing or eating meals
• Consider paper towels to clean surfaces; if you use cloth towels wash them often.
• Use a food thermometer to cook foods to proper internal temperatures, for example poultry should reach an internal temperature of 165°F and fish to 145°F.
• Bring sauces, soups and gravies to a boil when reheating. Heat other leftovers thoroughly to 165°F.
• Keep your refrigerator at 40°F or below and your freezer 0°F or below to reduce risk of foodborne illness.
• Never defrost at room temperature.  Three safe methods to thaw are: in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave. If you are thawing in cold water or the microwave food must be cooked immediately.
• Separate raw items (poultry, seafood) from other food items in grocery bags and in your refrigerator. Store raw items on shelving below cooked or ready to eat items.
• Use separate cutting boards for items like fresh produce and raw meats. I find that color-coded cutting boards (green for veggies, red for meats) work best to help prevent cross-contamination.

Myth Busters:
Below are some common food safety myths:
MYTH: Glass or plastic cutting boards don’t hold harmful bacteria like wooden cutting boards do.
FACT: ALL cutting boards can be a breeding ground for bacteria regardless of type.  It’s important to wash and sanitize after each use. Solid plastic and glass are dishwasher safe; however, wooden don’t hold up very well. Once cutting boards become old with cracks and excessive knife scares it’s time to dispose.
MYTH: Rinsing my hands under running water kills germs.
FACT: Water with soap is the best way to wash your hands and remove harmful bacteria. Be sure to scrub both the front and back of your hands under running water. Sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star twice (about 30 seconds) to ensure your hands are clean, dry with a clean MYTH: Pre-packaged produce does not need to be washed before eating.
FACT: Just because produce is pre-packaged doesn’t mean that it’s ready to eat. Ready the label to make sure it states, “ready to eat” or “triple washed,” if it does you’re good to go!

FightBac!® is a campaign created by a non-profit organization called Partnership for Food Safety Education. It aims at improving public health and food safety by bringing together health educators and other partnered organizations to increase awareness and reduce the risk of foodborne illness. For more information on food safety please check out the following credible websites: