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October 2, 2013

How to stay safe with food gatherings

NORMAN — Q: Fall months bring many opportunities for fun gatherings and food sharing. What can I do to prevent the onset of food-borne illness during these exciting events?

A: According to the National Institutes of Health, it is estimated that 48 million people get sick from contaminated food sources each year. Harmful bacteria, parasites and viruses can all cause food-borne illnesses that present various symptoms.

Learning how to handle food safely during preparation and serving can prevent the onset of food-borne illness. Here are some simple ways to reduce the risk of food-borne illness.

Wash your hands before, during and after food preparation. Wash hands when switching tasks.

Keep kitchen surfaces such as appliances, countertops, cutting boards and utensils clean throughout meal preparation with hot, soapy water.

Always use two cutting boards: one for raw meat, poultry and fish and the other for ready-to-eat foods.

Use separate spoons and forks to taste, stir and serve food.

Use a food thermometer. It is the only reliable way to determine the doneness of your food.

Refrigerate food within two hours of being served to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Make sure your refrigerator is set below 40 degrees.

Never allow foods to defrost at room temperature, on the counter or in warm water. Defrost food only in the refrigerator or in the microwave. When defrosting food in the refrigerator, cover raw meat and place it on the bottom shelf. When defrosting food in the microwave, cook it immediately.

Avoid eating foods containing raw eggs like cookie dough or cake batter.

If taking food to parties, observe the same safety habits as at home.

For nutritional counseling, Norman Regional Health System offers the guidance of registered dietitians. Those interested can schedule an appointment for an assessment with a referral from their family physician.

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