Our dietary habits are changing due to the globalization of food products. There’s a vast and expanding variety of foods we can purchase in stores and eating establishments.
International food and restaurant chains are expanding and growing.
Foodborne Illnesses Cross Borders
Most countries are cross-border trading food; from one part of the world to the far reaches of our planet. This cross-border trading has created concerns about food product and safety.
Foodborne illnesses like Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli) caused large outbreaks in the past and present.
E. coli has also been linked to outbreaks across the globe in uncooked ground beef, untreated water, and lettuce.
Salmonella outbreaks occur from tainted eggs and chicken.
Listeria monocytogenes outbreaks cause pregnant women to have miscarriages and stillbirths and are spread by processed meats and cheese.
Most people want to know that the food they purchase in restaurants, fairs, and stores is free from contamination, toxins, and chemical additives.
How Safe is Your Food?
We also want to know that our food is stored and prepared properly.
It’s particularly challenging to know whether the imported food we purchase is safe.
Note that the United States Department of Agriculture reported that over half of the shellfish and fish U.S. citizens consume is imported.
More than one-third of fresh fruits Americans purchase is imported, as well.
The food industry is growing and it is more difficult for governments and consumers to be confident their food is safe.
Travelers can carry microorganisms from one geographical location to another and inadvertently carry foodborne diseases. Produce is sometimes grown in one location; contaminated with fecal matter or coated with pesticides and fertilizer residue, sprayed or injected with preservatives or coated with wax, then shipped overnight across international borders to far corners of the earth.
For example in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 2003, hepatitis A virus caused deaths and hundreds of illnesses—the cause was fecally-contaminated green onions that were imported from Mexico.
The U.S. has a food supply that is the safest in the world; however every year 48 million Americans get foodborne disease—128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 people die from contaminated food.
Healthy Habits and Safe Food Practices
Combating parasites, viruses, bacteria, and other contaminants in our food supply should be a high priority—especially when serving food to others at holiday gatherings, restaurants, and work.
Some healthy habits, safe food handling practices, and food safety measures can help you and your family avoid getting foodborne illnesses.
- Clean – Keep everything clean when preparing food. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after preparing food. Wash food contact surfaces with hot, soapy water after preparing a food item and before moving onto the next item. Use a produce brush and rinse fruit and vegetables in cold water to remove dirt. Do not rinse raw meat or poultry before cooking in order to reduce the risk of spreading bacteria across the sink area and countertops.
- Separate — Avoid cross-contamination – don’t give bacteria the opportunity to spread from one food to another. Use one cutting board for raw meats, poultry, and fish and use another for raw fruits and vegetables. Keep raw meats, eggs, poultry, seafood and their juices away from foods you won’t cook.
- Cook – Safely cooked foods need to reach a high enough internal temperature to kill bacteria. When reheating sauces, soups, and gravies bring them to a rolling boil before serving. Do not eat raw cookie dough—it may contain raw eggs.
- Chill – Harmful bacteria grows rapidly at room temperature so refrigerate food quickly. Refrigerate take-out and left-over food within two hours. Set your refrigerator to 40 degrees and your freezer to 0 degrees. Leftovers should be used within three or four days.