Every year, 48 million people fall ill with foodborne illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s likely people have lots of leftovers from Fourth of July celebrations. A local health professional, Billy Pitts, director of the Marshall County Health Department, said it’s important to take proper safety precautions to prevent food from going bad and making you sick.
The most common foodborne illnesses are campylobacter, E. coli, norovirus and salmonella. People can avoid them by taking a few simple steps.
Pitts said cooking meat all the way through, keeping food like raw meat and vegetables separate, and washing your hands constantly when handling food is the way to do it. “Assume it’s contaminated. Prepare it properly and watch out for cross-contamination,” he said.
A resident of Paducah, Ray Smith, said he always keeps food safety at the forefront of his mind when making food for his family. “I don’t like doing ribs, but I do like doing hamburgers and hotdogs. I’m a hot dog fanatic,” he said.
After a long weekend spent grilling with his family, he said he never forgets food safety. “We usually rinse it off, and then if we’re going to grill, grill. If we’re going to bake it in the oven, bake it in the oven, and my wife uses a thermometer to measure the temperature,” he said.
Pitts also mentioned that people should not wash meat and poultry because it can spread germs to the rest of the kitchen. He said if you must do that, you should sanitize everything before moving onto other foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
“Any food product that you have, assume it’s contaminated. That’s the key,” Pitts said. He noted that even though most of these illnesses aren’t usually deadly, it’s important to take precautions for those who are immunocompromised.
“I like to think about the little ones, too. I’ve got a grandson that lives there, and I wouldn’t want him to get sick because I was careless with the food,” he said.
For those camping without access to sanitizing materials, prepare that food at home. “Separate everything in containers, Ziploc bags, or whatever, and keep it cooled in a cooler of some sort,” Pitts said.
Pitts added that with these steps, people can protect themselves and their family. That’s something Smith said he continues to do. “We wash everything over and over,” Smith said.