Tip o’ the Mornin’ to You: Don’t Feel Green on St. Patrick’s Day (or Any Day)

St. Patrick’s Day might have you seeing green. Green hats. Green food. Green beer.

That’s all fine and dandy.

But if you are feeling green, that’s a different story. It might be something you ate.

According to the 2015 Food and Health Survey, the top food safety concern among Americans is no longer “foodborne illness,” which was overtaken by “chemicals in food.” Why is this an issue? Because by and large, foodborne illness is a bigger threat to human health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that one in six Americans gets sick by consuming contaminated foods or beverages. No one wants to feel green on St. Patrick’s Day, or any other day, for that matter.

So what exactly in food can make you feel green? Turns out there are three different threats to be aware of: bacteria, viruses and parasites. The most common foodborne illnesses are caused by norovirus and by the bacteria Salmonella,Clostridium, and Campylobacter, according to the CDC.

Food can become contaminated while it is being produced or prepared. For example, foods can make you sick if they are not packaged properly.  Additionally, microbes can be transferred between foods by using contaminated cutting boards, knives, or by unwashed hands handling food. Even foods that are fully cooked can become re-contaminated.

All this doom and gloom have you feeling blue? Don’t worry. Just as there are many ways food can become contaminated, we are here to recommend of a host of ways to keep you and your family safe from foodborne illness. According to Foodsafety.gov, tt really all comes down to four simple ideas: clean, separate, cook and chill.

Clean

  • Wash hands the right way—for at least 20 seconds with soap and running water
  • Wash surfaces and utensils after each use
  • Wash fruits and veggies—but not meat, poultry, or eggs

Separate

  • Use separate cutting boards and plates for produce and for meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs
  • Keep meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods while shopping for food, bagging groceries and storing food in in the refrigerator

Cook

  • Use a food thermometer
  • Keep food hot after cooking (at 140 ˚F or above)
  • Microwave food thoroughly (to 165 ˚F)
  • Refrigerate perishable foods within two hours

Chill

  • Freezing does not destroy harmful bacteria, but it does keep food safe until you can cook it. Make sure your freezer is set to 0˚ F or below.
  • Never thaw or marinate foods on the counter
  • Know when to throw food out

Follow these steps to avoid feeling green on St. Patrick’s Day and beyond. Want to know more? Check out these additional Food Insight resources:

Don't Get Ill, Keep it Chill

Four Food-Safety Basics That Could Be Lifesavers

Food Safety Tip: Mind the Sneeze Guard!

Burgers and a Salad: Avoiding Risky Food Safety Mistakes!