Enjoying food, especially with family and friends, is one of the joys of life. Food and water sustain us and nourish the body, allowing us to grow and be active and healthy. Access to a safe food and water supply is a priority. So how do we keep food safe?
How our food and water supply is protected
The food industry is responsible for producing safe food, and government agencies are responsible for setting food safety standards, conducting inspections, ensuring that standards are met and maintaining a strong enforcement program to deal with those who do not comply with standards. The Food Safety Modernization Act was enacted in 2011, enabling the Food and Drug Administration, working with a wide range of public and private partners, to better protect public health by strengthening the food safety system.
Food safety affects everyone, and although the United States' food and water system has many protections in place, food safety continues to be a public health concern. Each year, 1 in 6 Americans is sickened by food poisoning, caused by bacteria or other pathogens in food. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 85 percent of all foodborne illness could be prevented if people handled food properly.
What you can do to keep food safe
Safely handling food means more than just washing your hands before you eat. How you handle food while you shop, cook and eat can significantly reduce your risk of food poisoning, so follow these steps:
- Wash hands and surfaces often; wash produce before eating. Illness-causing bacteria can survive in many places around your kitchen, including your hands, utensils and cutting boards. Unless you wash each the right way, you could spread bacteria to your food, and your family.
- Separate to avoid cross-contamination. Even after you've cleaned your hands and surfaces thoroughly, raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs can still spread illness-causing bacteria to ready-to-eat foods — unless you keep them separate. When juices from raw meats or germs from unclean objects accidentally touch cooked or ready-to-eat foods like bread and vegetables, cross-contamination occurs. Keep foods separate before, during and after preparation.
- Cook foods to the right temperature and use a food thermometer. Cooking foods to a proper minimum internal temperature kills harmful pathogens. Many people think they can tell when food is "done" simply by checking its color and texture, but there's no way to be sure food is safe without following a few important but simple steps.
- Refrigerate perishable foods promptly at 40°F or below. By refrigerating foods promptly and properly, you can help keep food safe by slowing the growth of harmful bacteria.