TRENTON - While summer is a perfect time for backyard barbecues and
picnics, Commissioner of Health and Senior Services Christine Grant is
urging New Jersey residents to heed simple precautions to prevent food
poisoning as the summer heats up.
"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as
many as 75 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths
are associated nationwide each year with pathogenic microorganisms in
food," said Grant. "Many of those illnesses are a result of
improper food handling practices that cause contamination and can be significantly
reduced if food is handled properly."
Under-cooked meats and cross-contamination from raw meats to ready-to-eat
foods can spread food-borne pathogens such as e. coli, salmonella and
many other food-borne diseases. The reported cases of food-borne illnesses
usually increase in summer months because the harmful bacteria in food
can grow quicker in warm weather, especially when foods are left out in
the heat or in cars for extended periods.
The Department of Health and Senior Services offers these suggestions
for protection from food-borne illnesses:
- Use a food thermometer to ensure that meats are cooked well enough
to ward off bacteria, such as e. coli, that could lead to illness. Ground
meat should be cooked until it reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit; chicken
should be cooked to 170 degrees Fahrenheit. If a thermometer is unavailable,
cut into meat to check that the meat is not pink and that the juices
- Wash hands frequently. Use plenty of soap and warm water to wash
hands immediately before preparing foods and between handling raw meats
and then ready-to-eat foods that will not be cooked, such as fresh vegetables
for salads. Everyone should also wash before eating to reduce the direct
contamination of the food.
- When making salads, such as potato or chicken salad, make sure that
all ingredients have been properly chilled before combining them in
the salad. This ensures that the salads will be at temperatures that
inhibit bacterial growth.
- All fruits and vegetables should be washed before cooking or serving.
Once cut, watermelons and cantaloupes need to be refrigerated or kept
on ice to prevent bacterial growth. Other fruits and vegetables should
be kept cold to prevent spoilage. Use a service dish on ice and immediately
store in an ice chest when serving outside.
- Be sure to clean all utensils and cutting services to avoid contamination
from raw meat and other foods.
More information is on the Department's web site at www.state.nj.us/health.
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