Health Department

Food Safety

Food Safety: Protecting Yourself from Food Poisoning

Health Article by Larry D. Jones, MPH, Health Director

May 28, 2013

It’s a Saturday afternoon, kids are outside playing, the windows are open and the smell of charcoal is drifting through the neighborhood. This means one thing… summer is here!

Summer weather welcomes a host of cookouts, family gatherings, graduation parties and numerous opportunities to encounter the dreaded food poisoning.

Foodborne illness, sometimes called food poisoning, is a common, costly—yet preventable—public health problem. Each year, about 1 in 6 Americans gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.

We are all at risk of food poisoning, but there are several ways we can protect ourselves.

· CLEAN- While preparing and cooking foods, wash your hands and surfaces often. Germs can survive in many places around your kitchen, including your hands, utensils, and cutting boards. In addition to yourself and work area, also be sure to thoroughly rinse fresh fruits and vegetables.

· SEPARATE- Don't cross-contaminate! Even after you’ve cleaned your hands and surfaces thoroughly, raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can still spread germs to ready-to-eat foods—unless you keep them separate.

· COOK- Cook to the right temperature. While many people think they can tell when food is "done" simply by checking its color and texture, there’s no way to be sure it’s safe without the use of a food thermometer. Use a food thermometer to ensure that foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature: 145°F for whole meats, 160°F for ground meats, and 165°F for all poultry.

· CHILL- Keep cold foods cold! Keep your refrigerator below 40°F and refrigerate foods properly. Germs can grow in many foods within 2 hours unless you refrigerate them. During the summer heat, germs can grow even more quickly, often times within an hour.

A bonus of all summer-time cookouts is the abundance of leftovers! Refrigerate any leftovers promptly in shallow containers. Discard any food left out more than 2 hours. If the temperature is above 90 °F, discard after one hour.

By knowing the rules of food safety you can help prevent germ and bacteria growth, which will help keep you and your family safe. If any one in your family exhibits symptoms of foodborne illness (diarrhea, high fever, prolonged vomiting, dehydration, or dizziness) contact your healthcare provider.

For more information on food poisoning, contact the Independence Health Department at (816) 325-7185, or by visiting and