Let me set the scene for you: We finally arrive at our hotel for a long-awaited vacation to the Caribbean. We’re greeted with a glass of bubbly champagne at check-in and book a breathtaking sunset sail for our first evening. The appetizers served on board don’t look too appetizing, but hubby tries a few and … gets food poisoning! Then after a night of multiple visits to the porcelain bowl, he’s finally asleep in the room. We expected this vacation to be a release … but not this way.
Food Spoilage Can Cause
Significant Health Problems
The reason I didn’t get sick is because I didn’t partake in the offerings on the boat ride. Although some might say I’m a bit obsessive, I consider myself a food safety sleuth. In case you didn’t know, a dietitian’s motto is “When in doubt, throw it out.” Or more graphically, “Better to pass it up then throw it up!” (I know, this story is not for the squeamish!)
Especially in a warm climate, it’s important to be vigilant about how food is handled. Each year, more than 76 million Americans are sickened by foodborne illnesses, which affect all age, ethnic and income groups. Although we’re quick to point fingers at restaurants and food companies for causing these uncomfortable side effects, it’s our responsibility to take action by keeping ourselves from getting sick from food.
Here are some food-safety measures you can practice at home and remember when traveling:
• Keep hot food hot. Temperatures between 160 degrees to 212 degrees Fahrenheit destroy most bacteria.
• Keep cold food cold. Best is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
• If you’re watching your weight, it could be a good practice to leave some food on the plate, but leftovers should not stay out of the refrigerator for longer than two hours. In hot weather – 90 degrees Fahrenheit or above – this time is reduced to one hour.
• Cook food thoroughly, following the food safety label found on packages. A food thermometer is an inexpensive investment that could save you money in doctor bills.
• Keep raw food such as meat and poultry separate from produce and cooked foods to prevent cross-contamination. Keep work surfaces clean. Using color-coded cutting boards makes this a simple practice.
• Pay attention to tools used during cooking. Never use the same utensils for raw meat, poultry or seafood to prepare produce or ready-to-eat foods without thoroughly washing them.
• Be sure to wash your hands before, during and after handling food. Proper hand-washing may eliminate nearly half of all cases of food poisoning, and it can even significantly reduce the spread of the common cold and flu.
Perhaps it’s also important to take a closer look at your eating behaviors, and not just look at the foods you’re eating. No one will remember how great the food tasted if they got sick afterwards.
Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN is director and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She counsels individuals, groups and corporations in wellness programs and seminars. She appears regularly as an expert guest on national television and radio programs and in the press.
Bonnie has served as a spokesperson to the New York State Dietetic Association and for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
She has written numerous articles for leading newspapers and magazines, was a consultant to best-selling books, including “Nutrition for Dummies” and “Cholesterol for Dummies,” and has written chapters for many other textbooks.
She is the author of, “Read It Before You Eat It,” translating confusing and misleading terminology into consumer-friendly information. For more information, visit her website at http://www.bonnietaubdix.com.
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