Recent high-profile outbreaks keep food safety fresh in our minds. Foodborne illness, sometimes called food poisoning, is a common, costly yet preventable public health problem. Each year, about 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. Forgetting about food safety is a recipe for disaster.

Not Just Consumers

It is important to know that food safety does not solely rest with consumers. Contamination with harmful bacteria like E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella commonly occurs earlier along the farm to table chain.

Common Foodborne Illnesses and Symptoms

The most common foodborne illnesses are norovirus, Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, and Campylobacter. Symptoms of food poisoning can be as commonplace as diarrhea or as life-threatening as organ failure.

These illnesses can even cause long-term health problems or death. When young children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with weak immune systems eat contaminated food, they have a greater chance of becoming severely sick with problems like miscarriage or kidney failure.

See your doctor or healthcare provider if you have:

  • Diarrhea, along with a high fever (temperature over 101.5F, measured orally);
  • blood in the stools, prolonged vomiting that prevents you from keeping liquids down;
  • signs of dehydration, including a decrease in urination;
  • dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when standing up, or if you have had diarrhea for more than 3 days

No Laughing Matter: Know the Risks and Rules

Everyone is at risk for food poisoning. To reduce your risk, be savvy about how germs can be found in contaminated food and sometimes make you sick.

Here are 4 simple steps to food safety:

CLEAN

Wash your hands and surfaces often. Germs can survive in many places around your kitchen, including your hands, utensils, and cutting boards.

SEPARATE

Don’t cross-contaminate. Even after you’ve cleaned your hands and surfaces thoroughly, raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can still spread germs to ready-to-eat foodsunless you keep them separate.

COOK

Cook to the right temperature . While many people think they can tell when food is “done” simply by checking its color and texture, there’s no way to be sure it’s safe without following a few important but simple steps. Use a food thermometer to ensure that foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature: 145F for whole meats (allowing the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or consuming), 160F for ground meats, and 165F for all poultry.

Read more at: //www.cdc.gov/features/RecipesForDisaster/index.html