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    Fight Salmonella | Fall 2014 Out Here Magazine

    Safe food-handling practices help keep bacteria at bay

    hands being washed under running water over a metal sink with fresh tomatoes and carrots on the neighboring counter
    Out Here

    By Carol Davis

    Photography by iStock

    If you raise livestock, and especially chickens, or have a garden, chances are pretty good that the Salmonella bacteria is lurking around.

    It's been known to cause salmonellosis — the name of the infection caused by Salmonella bacteria — for more than 100 years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

    Last year, Salmonella, the most frequently reported cause of foodborne illness, caused about 1.2 million illnesses in the United States, the CDC estimates.

    "It is important to remember that many food products may contain bacteria. A comprehensive farm-to-table approach to food safety is necessary," according to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. "Farmers, industry, food inspectors, retailers, food service workers, and consumers are each critical links in the food safety chain."

    For example, gardeners should make sure that any livestock manure used to fertilize soil is fully composted, or cured, before adding it to garden soil, to kill any bacteria, parasites, or weed seeds that it contains. And gardeners should always thoroughly wash produce brought in from the garden or from fruit trees to remove any bacteria.

    Contamination most frequently happens in the kitchen. Salmonella present on raw chicken or meat can survive if not cooked thoroughly. The bacteria also can cause foodborne illness through cross-contamination.

    For example, juices from raw meat or poultry prepared on a cutting board could contaminate salad ingredients if the board was not washed and sanitized before using it to cut up a salad.

    But bacteria on raw foods do not automatically mean you'll become ill. The key is to prevent Salmonella from growing to high levels and to destroy the bacteria through thorough cooking.

    Follow these guidelines from the Maine extension service for safe food preparation:

    • Wash your hands with hot soapy water before handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and handling pets or livestock, especially baby chicks.
    • Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next food. Sanitize with a chlorine and water solution of 1 tablespoon of full strength bleach to 1 gallon of water.
    • Use plastic or other non-porous cutting boards. These boards should be run through the dishwasher — or washed in hot, soapy water — after use.
    • Use paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces. If you use cloth towels, wash them often in your washing machine's hot cycle.
    • Separate raw meat, poultry, and seafood from other foods in your grocery shopping cart and in your refrigerator.
    • Use a different cutting board for raw meat products.
    • Always wash hands with hot, soapy water after they come in contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood, and raw eggs.
    • Never place cooked food on a plate that held raw meat, poultry, seafood, and raw eggs.
    • Cook all meats to the appropriate internal temperatures.
    • With microwaves, leave no cold spots in food where bacteria can survive. Cover food, rotate, and stir for even cooking.
    • Bring sauces, soups, and gravy to a boil when reheating. Heat other leftovers thoroughly to at least 165 degrees F (steaming hot).
    • Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared foods, and leftovers within two hours or, preferably, sooner.
    • Never defrost food at room temperature. Thaw in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave. Marinate foods in the refrigerator.
    • Don't pack the refrigerator. Cool air must circulate to keep food safe.

    Out Here editor Carol Davis is a fanatic about keeping her kitchen free from Salmonella.


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