It’s National Food Safety Education Month: Protect Yourself from Foodborne Illnesses

By the bioMérieux Connection Editors

September is Food Safety Education Month in the United States. At this time of year, families are usually gearing up to go back to school and are busier than ever, making it a perfect time to refresh food safety knowledge. This year, amidst restaurant closures and capacity requirements, food safety is critical as more than ever individuals are in their own kitchens, preparing their own meals.

To commemorate the month, we’ve rounded up some common questions and answers about food safety best practices and collaborated with The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) to feature interactive resources for educators!  

Common Questions and Answers About Food Safety Best Practices

What are the risks of consuming unsafe food?

One in six Americans get sick from a foodborne illness each year, resulting in 3,000 deaths annually. Foodborne illness can be life-threatening to people with weakened immune systems, including children, older adults, and pregnant women. Common symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, muscle weakness, stomach pain, and headaches.

The three main causes of foodborne illnesses are biological hazards (bacteria, viruses, and parasites), chemical hazards (natural toxins and chemical contaminants), and physical hazards (metal shavings, plastic pieces, and broken glass). To prevent foodborne illness or injury, it is critical to understand what proactive measures can be taken to keep food safe.

What are easy ways to incorporate food safety measures?

Both the CDC and FDA recommend following four simple steps as you prepare and handle food:

  1. Clean: Wash hands, utensils, and surfaces often while cooking.
  2. Separate: Segregate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from cooked food and fresh produce.
  3. Cook: Use a food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked to the appropriate internal temperature to kill pathogens.
  4. Chill: Refrigerate perishable foods and leftovers within two hours, or within one hour if the food is exposed to temperatures above 90°F, such as a hot car or picnic.

Can COVID-19 spread through food?

There is currently no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is a respiratory illness primarily spread from person to person.

Like other viruses, it is possible that the SARS-CoV-2 can survive on surfaces or objects, and it is always important to clean hands and surfaces often while preparing food.

Are there any special food safety practices for food delivery?

Home-delivered groceries, subscription meal kits, and deliveries from restaurants can be convenient options while maintaining social distancing. The CDC recommends a variety of precautionary actions before ordering, while receiving the food delivery, and while handling and preparing the food. Most importantly, delivered food should be refrigerated or frozen as soon as possible until it is ready to be prepared.

Food Safety Resources for Educators

Today’s students will someday become chefs, parents, and potentially even food scientists! It’s never too early to learn food safety best practices.

Feeding Tomorrow, the foundation of IFT, works to raise awareness and interest in the science of food as a desirable career path. 

“Feeding Tomorrow’s promises include motivating individuals to study and pursue careers in the many sciences related to the nutrition, processing, production, packaging, and safety of foods,” says Feeding Tomorrow Chair Nancy Moriarty, Ph.D. “Another of the Foundation’s promises is to support students pursuing undergraduate and graduate studies in these areas. Since 1990, Feeding Tomorrow has provided scholarships to 2,528 students totaling over $3 million.”

K-12 Teaching Resources
Feeding Tomorrow provides interactive experiments for all grade levels to encourage educators to incorporate food safety into their curriculum. They have also adapted amidst the pandemic and offer a variety of resources for distanced or online learning.

Access K-12 Teaching Resources →

Feeding Tomorrow Educator Program and Event
The Feeding Tomorrow Educator Program aims to raise awareness and understanding of the types of careers available in food science and technology. Feeding Tomorrow is offering an engaging video summary of their 2020 event to answer the question: “Why teach about food science?”

Watch Educator Program Video →

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of bioMérieux, Inc.

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