The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution late last year creating the first World Food Safety Day – on June 7 – to draw attention and direct efforts to reduce the estimated 600 million cases of annual foodborne illnesses across the globe.
Roughly 48 million Americans get sick every year from a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Norovirus and salmonella are the two main germs that cause those numbers.
The CDC also reports that food allergies are a growing food safety and public health concern that affect an estimated 5% of children in the U.S.; mislabeled food products, mostly due to undeclared allergens, is among the largest causes of food recalls.
In New York, the state Department of Agriculture and Markets’ Division of Food Safety is responsible for inspecting 35,000 food establishments, including grocery stores, food processing plants, craft beverage producers and more. Last year, the division conducted more than 30,000 inspections, collected over 2,500 food products for analysis by the Department’s Food Laboratory, investigated more than 2,700 consumer complaints and verified product labeling on thousands of products, from fish to baked goods. Foods needed to be seized in nearly 2,200 cases due to undeclared ingredients, live pathogens or some other type of contamination.
Food service establishment inspection data is available for inspections for restaurants, caterers and food service at schools, children’s camps, some institutions and other facilities on the homepage at health.data.ny.gov.
Submit food safety complaints at agriculture.ny.gov/complaint.html.
Food safety tips
The state department also advises the following important food safety steps:
Wash your hands and surfaces often
Germs that cause food poisoning can survive in many places and spread around your kitchen.
- Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before, during, and after preparing food, and before eating.
- Wash your utensils, cutting boards and countertops frequently with hot, soapy water.
- Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water before eating.
All foods – including raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs – can spread germs to ready-to-eat and cooked foods — unless you keep them separate.
- When grocery shopping, keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and their juices away from other foods, including fruits and vegetables.
- Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs separate from all other foods in your refrigerator.
- Avoid spreading germs from raw chicken and other raw meats around food preparation areas. Washing raw meat or poultry before cooking is not recommended.
- Use separate cutting boards and plates for raw meat, poultry and seafood. Do not place cooked or ready-to-eat foods on surfaces in contact with raw beef, poultry, pork, fish or seafood before the surfaces have been thoroughly cleaned.
Cook to the right temperature
Food is safely cooked when the internal temperature gets high enough to kill germs that can make you sick. You can’t be certain that food is safely cooked by checking its color and texture.
- The only way to tell if food is safely cooked is to use a food thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. Be careful not to pass through the meat and touch the bone or cooking surface, which can give false high temperature readings. For more info, including a chart of cooking temperatures, visit cdc.gov/foodsafety/keep-food-safe.html.
Refrigerate foods promptly
Refrigerate perishable foods within two hours, or one hour if the outdoor temperature exceeds 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Keep your refrigerator below 40 degrees and throw out expired or spoiled food.
- Thaw frozen food safely in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. Never thaw foods on the counter, because bacteria multiply quickly in the parts of the food that reach room temperature.
- Marinate food in the refrigerator. Don’t taste the marinade or reuse it after raw meat has been added