If you made a New Year’s resolution to improve your health by eating more produce, the folks at Stop Foodborne Illness have a few warnings for you. While a more plant-based diet can be very healthy, you still must be mindful about the risk of foodborne pathogens.
- Wash your hands. As always, the best way to prevent the spread of dangerous bacteria is by properly washing hands for 20 seconds before handling food. Review these Quick Facts for Handwashing to learn more.
- Wash produce. Since raw diets eliminate cooking, which helps kill harmful bacteria, it is crucial to wash vegetables thoroughly, even if you plan to peel it before eating.
- Raw sprouts carry more risks. Although containing beneficial vitamins and minerals like iron, magnesium, potassium and vitamins C, A and K, sprouts are also prone to carrying pathogens. Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli—just like sprouts—need warm and humid conditions to grow . To reduce the risk of foodborne illness, cook sprouts when possible. Additionally, children, the elderly, pregnant women and others with weakened immune systems should avoid eating raw sprouts altogether.
If you intend to cook at home more often, you should also keep these food safety guidelines in mind:
- Judging cooked meat by color cannot determine if it is safe to eat. The only way to determine if meat, poultry or seafood is cooked safely is to check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. Check the thickest part of the meat, and sanitize the point in between readings. Learn more about why temperature is important and check out this helpful chart on safe cooking temperatures.
- Raw milk products are unpasteurized. Some claim the lack of processing means it’s more beneficial but the CDC states that the dangers of raw milk far outweigh any perceived benefits. Unpasteurized milk can contain a wide variety of germs including Brucella, Campylobacter, E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella. Read more about the dangers of raw milk and raw milk cheeses.
- Keep raw and cooked foods separate. Designate specific cutting boards for specific types of food. And remember to clean and disinfect equipment and surfaces after preparing raw foods.
- Home-baked cookies are so much better! Eating the raw cookie dough, however, is not recommended. Raw eggs can contain Salmonella while flour, a raw agricultural product, typically hasn’t been treated to kill germs like E coli. While your cookies are baking in the oven, read more about the dangers of raw dough.
- Cold-pressed juice is another health practice climbing the ranks of popularity. While there is little to no evidence supporting the idea that raw juice is better, one thing is certain: since cold-pressed juice is unpasteurized, consumers can potentially develop a foodborne illness. Follow these two simple steps to juice safety.
About Stop Foodborne Illness
Stop Foodborne Illness is a national nonprofit, public health organization dedicated to preventing illness and death from foodborne pathogens by promoting sound food safety policy and best practices, building public awareness, and assisting those impacted by foodborne illness. For more food safety tips please visit www.Stopfoodborneillness.org/awareness/. If you think you have been sickened from food, contact your local health professional. You may subscribe to receive Stop Foodborne Illness e-Alerts and eNews here: www.Stopfoodborneillness.org/take-action/sign-up-for-e-alerts/