Environmental Quality | 206 W. Church St., 2nd Floor | P.O. Box 534045 | Grand Prairie, TX 75053
Phone 972-237-8055 | Fax 972-237-8228
Have you ever gotten sick from something you ate?
Food Poisoning or Foodborne Illness (FBI) affects millions of Americans each year. Most cases of Foodborne Illness go unreported due to the infected believing it to be some other ailment, like the flu. The reason for underreporting of foodborne illness is the public’s lack of knowledge on foodborne illness.
How can I lower my risk of foodborne illness?
Six steps, if followed, can increase food safety in your home.
- CHECK: Before purchasing food items, check for quality.
- CLEAN: Wash hands and surfaces often.
- SEPARATE: Don't cross-contaminate!
- COOK: Cook to proper temperature.
- CHILL: Refrigerate promptly.
- TRASH: Poor quality food should be thrown away. When in doubt throw it out.
When should I report a foodborne illness?
You or your physician should report serious cases of foodborne illness to the local health department. Ask your physician to diagnose what is causing the foodborne illness. This may require a stool, vomitus or sputum sample. Report any food poisoning incidents if the food involved came from a restaurant or commercial outlet. Give a detailed, but short account of the incident. If possible include a +72 hour food history. If the food is a commercial product, have it in hand so you can describe it. If you’re asked to keep the food refrigerated so officials can examine it later, follow directions carefully. For concerns of foodborne illness in Grand Prairie establishments call 972-237-8055.
Don’t buy food in poor condition. Make sure refrigerated food is cold to the touch. Frozen food should be rock-solid. Packaging of the food should be in sound condition. Canned goods should be free of dents, cracks or bulging lids which can indicate a serious food poisoning threat. Labels should have an accurate account of its contents; and the name and place of the manufacturer.
For concerns of improper labeling in Grand Prairie establishments please call 972-237-8055.
|What to Look For in a Label
Our hands come in contact with most of what we encounter in life. This makes our hands vehicles for spreading bacteria and other disease causing agents. Most of the population does not know when and how to properly wash their hands.
- Before and after handling food.
- When switching between the handling of different food items.
- After using the bathroom.
- After sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose.
- After coming in contact with a sick person.
- After performing a cleaning or outdoor chore.
- Handling a pet.
Wash your hands for 20 seconds with hot, soapy water (for kids' hands, use warm, soapy water instead). Thoroughly scrub hands, wrists, fingernails, and between fingers. Be sure to completely dry hands afterwards with a clean towel, preferably disposable.
Surfaces that come in contact with the food can also carry bacteria and other dangers with them. Here are a few tips to keep your food surfaces clean:
- Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next food.
- Consider using paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces. If you use cloth towels wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
- Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten.
- Rub firm-skin fruits and vegetables under running tap water or scrub with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing with running tap water.
- Wash lunch-boxes or totes every night.
- Wash refrigerator surfaces with hot soapy water.
Cross-contamination is how bacteria can be spread. When handling raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs, keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods. Always start with a clean scene -- wash hands with warm water and soap. Wash cutting boards, dishes, countertops and utensils with hot soapy water.
- Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from other foods in your grocery shopping cart, grocery bags and in your refrigerator.
- Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry and seafood.
- Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs.
- To prevent juices from raw meat, poultry or seafood from dripping onto other foods in the refrigerator, place these raw foods in sealed containers or plastic bags on the bottom shelf of the fridge.
- Sauce that is used to marinate raw meat, poultry or seafood should not be used on cooked food unless it is boiled first.
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Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness.
- The color of the meat and/or juices of the meat does not always ensure proper cooking temperature.
- Use a food thermometer which measures the internal temperature of cooked meat, poultry and egg dishes, to make sure that the food is cooked to a safe internal temperature.
- Refer to the Heat It Up chart for the safe internal temperatures.
- When re-heating items, always be sure to cook the item to an internal temperature of 165°F.
- When cooking in a microwave oven, make sure there are no cold spots in food because bacteria can survive there. For best results, cover food, stir and rotate for even cooking. If there is no turntable, rotate the dish by hand once or twice during cooking.
- When serving up hot food buffet-style, hot food should be kept at 140° F or higher. Keep food hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers and warming trays.
- When bringing hot soup, chili or crab dip to an outdoor party... Keep it all piping hot before and during serving. Transport hot foods in insulated thermal containers. Keep containers closed until serving time.
Refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria. Do not over-stuff the refrigerator. Cold air must circulate to help keep food safe. Keeping a constant refrigerator temperature of 40°F or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Use an appliance thermometer to be sure the temperature is consistently 40°F or below. The freezer temperature should be 0°F or below.
- Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs and other perishables as soon as you get them home from the store.
- Never let raw meat, poultry, eggs, cooked food or cut fresh fruits or vegetables sit at room temperature more than two hours before putting them in the refrigerator or freezer (one hour when the temperature is above 90°F).
- Never defrost food at room temperature. Food must be kept at a safe temperature during thawing. There are three safe ways to defrost food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately. More defrost information below Defrost Do’s & Don’ts.
- Always marinate food in the refrigerator.
- Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.
- Use or discard refrigerated food on a regular basis.
Chill Tips for Food On the Go
When traveling with food, be aware that time, temperature and a cold source are key.
- Cold foods should be kept at 40° F or below.
- Always use ice or cold packs, and fill your cooler with food. A full cooler will maintain its cold temperatures longer than one that is partially filled.
- Keep all perishable foods chilled right up until serving time.
- Place containers of cold food on ice for serving to make sure they stay cold.
- It’s particularly important to keep custards, cream pies and cakes with whipped-cream or cream-cheese frostings refrigerated. Don’t serve them if refrigeration is not possible.
- If you’ve asked for a doggie bag to take home leftovers from a restaurant, it should be refrigerated within two hours of serving.
Defrost Do’s & Don'ts
There are three safe ways to defrost food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave.
- Defrost food in the refrigerator. This is the safest method for all foods.
- Short on time? Thaw meat and poultry in airtight packaging in cold water if it will be used immediately. Change the water every 30 minutes, so the food continues to thaw in cool water.
- Defrost food in the microwave only if you are going to cook it immediately.
- Never defrost food at room temperature. Food left out at room temperature longer than two hours may enter the Danger Zone—the unsafe temperatures between 40° F and 140° F. Bacteria can multiply rapidly between 40° F and 140° F.
- Don’t defrost food in hot water.
Poor quality food should be thrown away. When in doubt, throw it out.
Danger! - Never taste food that looks or smells strange to see if you can still use it. Just discard it.
Is it moldy? The mold you see is only the tip of the iceberg. The poisons molds can form are found under the surface of the food. so, while you can sometimes save hard cheese and salamis and firm fruits and vegetables by cutting the mold out remove a large area around it, most moldy food should be discarded.
The date is not always right. The expiration date given on most containers is an approximation of when the foods quality (not safety) declines. Depending upon the storage and use of the food the safety of the food can decrease before the expiration date.
Check the storage directions. Before using an item that is already opened, check the label for storage requirements. If the container has not been properly stored the food may be unsafe to eat.
For more information, visit these links:
- Partnership for Food Safety Education: www.fightbac.org/index.php
- Texas Department of State Health Services FBI Site: www.dshs.state.tx.us/idcu/health/foodborne_illness/
- FDA Educational Food Safety Sites: www.foodsafety.gov/
- CDC on Foodborne Illness
- USDA Fact Sheets: www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/index.asp