Every year, more than 3,000 people die in the United States as a result of foodborne diseases. Many millions more are made ill from bacteria and other contamination in the food that they eat.
Proper food safety could eliminate almost all of those early deaths. Unfortunately, the foods we eat exchange hands so many times that maintaining safety can feel like an impossible task.
Keep reading to learn 8 food safety facts that every chef, professional or otherwise, needs to know.
1. There are More than 200 Foodborne Diseases
Outbreaks of certain foodborne diseases tend to make the news more often than others.
Sometimes it’s because the disease is so dangerous, and restaurant patrons who have been exposed to the disease fall ill or even die as a result. Other times its because certain diseases are much more common, and the general public is more familiar with them, making them ideal topics for the evening news.
But while most people will recognize bacterias like E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria that cause illnesses, there are tons of other diseases spread by food.
In fact, there are more than 200 foodborne diseases in total. If food isn’t monitored, handled properly or prepared safely, anyone who eats it could be at risk of developing one of them.
2. Certain Populations are More at Risk of Contracting Foodborne Diseases
Foodborne illnesses are dangerous for anyone to contract. They can leave you with any range of symptoms, from vomiting to fevers, and worse.
Bacteria or contamination of food can leave even a healthy, fit adult with a serious illness. But for certain populations, they are even more dangerous.
A pregnant woman is particularly susceptible to foodborne illnesses. Soon-to-be-moms have been shown to be 10 times more sensitive to the Listeria bacteria than other adults. If that mother is Hispanic, she may be up to 24 times more susceptible.
Children and adults over the age of 65, or anyone with a compromised immune system or a pre-existing medical condition, are also more susceptible.
Not only do these populations contract foodborne illnesses more easily, but their symptoms are often much more severe as well.
3. Foodborne Illnesses Can Cause Lasting Medical Problems
Even if a foodborne isn’t significant enough to leave someone clinging to life, it can still cause medical problems that can last the rest of that individual’s life.
For instance, bacteria Botulism can cause paralysis. Listeria targets the body’s nervous system.
Some foodborne contaminants can even cause certain kinds of cancer. In fact, as much as 16 percent of all cancers are caused by bacterias and viruses.
4. The Importance of Food Safety Has to Exist at Every Level
Perhaps the most important fact about food safety that everyone needs to learn is that it only works when it exists at every level.
Simply heating foods to the proper temperature or cleaning fruits and vegetables when they arrive at a restaurant or in your home isn’t enough.
Contamination of certain bacterias can happen early on the production process. In fruits and vegetables, it can happen long before the crop is harvested. In meats, it may develop before that meat is every processed.
And if a bacteria is resistant, even cleaning or cooking the food may not be enough to make it safe. Food safety issues need to be understood and properly handled at every step of the harvest, production, shipping, and preparation process. If even one step is lacking, it can have serious consequences.
5. 1 in Every 6 Americans is Affected Each Year
If foodborne illnesses seem like a distant threat you only hear about on the news, think again.
Every year, 1 in every 6 Americans will be affected by a foodborne illness. Some will experience mild symptoms, like vomiting or diarrhea. In some of these cases, the individual may not even realize that their flu-like symptoms were even caused by food contamination.
But thousands of those affected will have to be hospitalized for more serious symptoms.
6. Cross-Contamination is a Serious Threat
Some bacterias are specific to meats, while others are specific to fresh ingredients like vegetables or fruits.
But cross-contamination between different types of foods is also a serious threat.
Cross-contamination can be incredibly dangerous. While a bacteria present on meat or seafood might be rendered safe after the food is cooked, if it is transferred to an ingredient that isn’t cooked before serving, anyone who eats it will become ill.
7. Storage Container Size Matters
Bacteria contamination begins and continues to grow on food until it is cooled to a safe temperature in a refrigerator or freezer.
But simply placing your food in the fridge or cooler right away isn’t enough. If the container that your food is placed in is too large for the amount of food you’re storing, bacteria may still have time to grow while it is cooling.
As a rule, a container should never have more than 2 inches of free space above the top of the food you’re storing.
The size of the container isn’t the only thing that needs to be monitored while food is in storage.
Monitoring food intake, storage, expiration dates, the temperature of coolers, and more are all essential to keeping the food in restaurants safe for patrons. This software is designed to ensure compliance in every area and at every level.
Proper storage in a restaurant is important. However, it’s equally important in your home fridge and freezer as well.
Keeping both organized will help you avoid holding onto old, spoiled food that could make you and your family ill.
8. Hand Washing is Key
While bacteria and contamination can happen at any stage, there is one simple trick that could help reduce a large number of foodborne illnesses.
Thorough, frequent hand washing is often overlooked. Yet, it’s easily one of the most important ways that individuals and restaurants alike can keep their food safe.
Food Safety Facts You Need to Know
Knowing these food safety facts is a must for both homeowners cooking in their own kitchens, as well as professional chefs and restaurant owners.
Failing to take the proper measures to ensure food safety will help you keep yourself, your family, and anyone else enjoying your food safe.
If you want to take proper food safety to the next level in your own home, growing your own veggies can be a great way to do that. It allows you to monitor your food prep from the time the seeds go into the ground to when you serve them to your family.
Check out these tips to learn how to start your own backyard garden.