Recalls and Food Safety

It seems that we hear of food related recalls almost weekly, leading consumers to question food safety. This year there have been recalls of ground beef, bagged salads, cantaloupe, and cheese, among other items. Foods may be contaminated with bacteria like e-coli, salmonella, or Listeria; or in some cases, the product may contain ingredients that were not listed on the label and could prove fatal to someone with food allergies. In many cases, those most at risk of developing food borne illnesses are children, pregnant women, the elderly, or anyone with a compromised immune system.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is responsible for monitoring and tracking the safety of food products, drugs, animal health products, biologics, medical devices, and cosmetics. Consumers may find a list of recent recalls in each category at www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/default.htm.

There are some steps consumers may take to protect themselves from tainted food products. Here are some steps you can take to help protect yourself from food related illness:

  • Wash your hands and work surfaces frequently. Wash your hands immediately after handling any meats, poultry, fish or eggs.
  • Use separate cutting boards for meats and vegetables. The safest option is a plastic cutting board that can be washed with hot, soapy water, wiped with bleach, or put in the dishwasher.
  • Wash all produce, even bagged produce that is marked “pre-washed” or “ready to eat.” Melons or other produce where the rind will be peeled should also be washed.
  • Wash the lids on any canned foods before opening them.
  • Cook meat, poultry and fish to recommended minimum temperatures. Because ground beef receives more handling that other beef cuts, the FDA recommends it be cooked to at least 165 degrees.
  • Refrigerate foods within two hours of cooking (one hour if the weather is hot).

While the food supply in this country is relatively safe, it never hurts to take steps to protect yourself. The FDA does offer the option to sign up for recall notices via email. Click here to add your email address to the FDA’s notification list.

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