Cooking with Care
by Alexander Gelfand
The Penn Stater
AMERICANS HAVE BEEN SICKENED RECENTLY BY listeria monocytogenes in their cheese, E. coli in their lettuce, salmonella in their eggsand that was after Congress introduced new food safety legislation in 2009. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 76 million cases of foodborne disease occur each year, killing thousands and sending many more to the hospital.
Are the outbreaks increasing, or have we simply become more aware of them? Catherine Cutter, an associate professor of food science, says it's a bit of both: Better detection methods give public health departments (and the public) better information, and large processing plants for our supply of inexpensive food means that when there's a problem, the effects are larger.
So what can you do to make sure that tossed salad doesn't land you in the hospital?
- Don't let your guard down
Many people assume that locally grown and organic foods are inherently safer and cleaner. Cutter says we don't know for sure because there's limited research in this area. So don't think you needn't wash that spinach because you bought it at a farmers' market or because a neighbor gave it to you.
- Read the labels
Know where your food comes from. Cutter says many foods (including certain cuts of meat; fish and shellfish; frozen fruits and vegetables; and some nuts) produced outside of the U.S. are required to be labeled with a country of origin.
- Know the enemy
"There are risks associated with certain foods," Cutter says. Raw or undercooked poultry is fertile ground for bacteria called campylobacter, ground meat for E. coli. Act accordingly. "Wash, be careful about serving anything with pathogens to anyone who's been immuno-compromised...and if it can be cooked, cook it."
- Follow the four Cs
Keep raw meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood separate from other foods to avoid cross-contamination, and cook them to their recommended internal temperatures (use a thermometer to be sure). Clean your hands and utensils with soap and water. And chill any perishable items you won't cook or eat within two hours.
For more tips go to: fightbac.org
Copyright ©2011 Alexander Gelfand