The United States provides one of the safest food supplies in the world. With the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the food, beverage and agricultural industries working together, our food supply is becoming even safer. However, despite all of these safety factors, microorganisms may still exist at levels that present risks to consumers.
Attention surrounding outbreaks of Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes or other pathogenic bacteria has increased consumer awareness of the potential microbiological risks in food. Government regulators, public health authorities, health professionals, scientists, consumer groups and the food industry all agree that prevention of foodborne illness is a primary food safety goal.
Everyone in the food system can do their part to help ensure the safety of food. Informed consumers can help extend the precautions taken by industry and government by becoming educated on how to buy, prepare and store food safely.
Consumers expect food that they buy in supermarkets to be as free as possible from bacteria. However, none of the control measures currently in use can completely remove one hundred percent of the microorganisms present in food. That's why good sanitation and careful food handling and preparation by everyone in the food system will always be necessary to prevent foodborne illness.
What Can We Do To Keep From Getting Sick?
Most foodborne illness can be prevented through some simple food handling and storage steps. All it takes is a little know-how.
It is important for consumers to think about food safety at each step, from shopping, to cooking, to cleaning, to storing leftovers to help avoid foodborne illness. The following are general rules for handling food safely in your kitchen:
When you shop:
Chill: Refrigerate promptly.
Clean: Wash hands and sanitize food-contact surfaces often.
Separate: Avoid cross-contact.
Cook to proper temperatures:
Tips on Cooking in the Microwave
When you serve food:
When you handle leftovers:
If you think you are sick from foodborne bacteria:
Being a good cook is only part of the story when it comes to food preparation. Everyone needs to make safe food preparation a top priority. Knowing how to refrigerate, cook, clean and store foods is the best recipe for keeping you and those who eat your food healthy.
Sources of Further Information on Food Safety and Foodborne Illness
For more information regarding microwave cooking and food safety, see the following USDA / FSIS fact sheets.