Healthy Eating and Food Safety

If eating healthier is one of your new year’s priorities, keep in mind that proper nutrition is not the same thing as having safe food. To ensure your healthy food is safe, always follow proper food safety principles and procedures to also prevent foodborne illness.

Healthy food safety
Image Source: Shutterstock

Fruit and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet.  But, raw fruit and vegetables may contain harmful germs, such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria, which can make you and your family sick with food poisoning. In the U.S., nearly half of foodborne illnesses are caused by germs on contaminated fresh produce.

Image Source: Shutterstock

It is important to learn how to handle and prepare them safely in order to reduce the risks of foodborne illness. There are steps that can help keep you healthy – and your fruits and vegetables safer to eat – from the store to your table.

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Food Safety Steps: Clean – Separate – Cook – Chill

Food poisoning peaks in the summer months when warmer temperatures cause foodborne germs to flourish. Follow these steps to be food safe:

food_safety_clean_separate_cook_chill
Image Source: Shutterstock

Clean

  • Wash your hands before and after preparing fruits and vegetables.
  • Wash or scrub all fruits and vegetables under running water before eating, cutting, or cooking.
  • Wash cutting boards, countertops, and utensils with hot, soapy water before and after preparing fruits and vegetables.
Food Safety - Washing Hands
Credit: Twitter - FDA Food

Separate

  • Shopping
    When shopping, pick up meat, poultry, and seafood last, right before checkout. Separate them from other food in your shopping cart and grocery bags. To guard against cross-contamination, put packages of raw meat and poultry into individual plastic bags.
  • Store fruits and vegetables away from, and not next to or below, raw meat, poultry, or seafood. These items can drip juices that may have germs.
  • Use a separate cutting board for fruits and vegetables that is never used for cutting or preparing raw meats, poultry, or seafood.
separate_cross_contamination_food_safety
Image Source: Shutterstock

Cook

Use a food thermometer to ensure meat is cooked hot enough to kill harmful germs.

Chicken temperature
Image Credit: USDA

Refer to the Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures chart below for the proper cooking temperatures and “rest time” of meats.

Category Food Min. Temp (°F) Rest Time
Ground Meat & Meat Mixtures Beef, Pork, Veal, Lamb 160 None
Turkey, Chicken 165 None
Fresh Beef, Veal, Lamb Steaks, roasts, chops 145 3 minutes
Poultry Chicken & Turkey, whole 165 None
Poultry breasts, roasts 165 None
Poultry thighs, legs, wings 165 None
Duck & Goose 165 None
Stuffing (cooked alone or in bird) 165 None
Pork and Ham Fresh pork 145 3 minutes
Fresh ham (raw) 145 3 minutes
Precooked ham (to reheat) 140 None
Eggs & Egg Dishes Eggs Cook until yolks and
white are firm
None
Egg dishes 160 None
Leftovers & Casseroles Leftovers 165 None
Casseroles 165 None
Seafood Fin Fish 145 or cook until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork. None
Shrimp, lobster, and crabs Cook until flesh is pearly and opaque. None
Clams, oysters, and mussels Cook until shells open during cooking. None
Scallops Cook until flesh is milky white or opaque and firm. None

Temperature and Time

Bacteria grows rapidly between the temperatures of 40°F and 140°F. After food is safely cooked, hot food must be kept hot at 140°F or warmer to prevent bacterial growth.

  • Refrigerate cut, peeled, or cooked fruits and vegetables as soon as possible, or within 2 hours. Refrigerate within 1 hour if the temperature outside is above 90°F.
  • Use a refrigerator thermometer to make sure the temperature stays at 40°F or below.
  • Keep meat, poultry, and seafood refrigerated until ready to grill.
  • Afterwards, divide leftovers into small portions and place in covered, shallow containers. Put in freezer or fridge within two hours of cooking (one hour if above 90°F outside).

two_hour_rule_food_safety

Groups More Vulnerable to Food Illness

Anyone can get a foodborne illness, but people in certain groups are more likely to get sick and to have a more serious illness. These groups of people are:

  • Young children
  • Pregnant women
  • Adults aged 65 and older
  • People with weakened immune systems

Summary

Practice good nutrition by eating a balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and vegetables – but always use proper food safety techniques to ensure your healthy food is safe.