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Take these steps to help avoid getting sick from the food you eat.

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About 48 million people get sick and more than 3,000 die each year from food poisoning in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And it takes more than hand washing to avoid food poisoning. Here are easy-to-follow steps to protect yourself and your family from foodborne illness:

At the Grocery Store

    • Check expiration dates: Some supermarkets discount food items close to their expiration dates to move foods off the shelves. While this is certainly a money saver, it can be dangerous if you do not use the food right away. If you can’t use the food before the expiration date, freeze it or leave it at the store.
    • Buy whole head lettuce: Bagged, pre-washed lettuce is convenient but it can also be a breeding ground for bacteria. Food experts agree it is safer to buy a whole head of lettuce – and it’s cheaper, too.
    • Buy pasteurized eggs: Pasteurized eggs are preheated to kill bacteria and viruses inside the shell. They cost more than regular eggs and come with a “P” stamped on the carton. If you’re eating out, you probably won’t be served pasteurized eggs so order eggs cooked well done instead of over-easy to reduce your risk of salmonella.

At Home

    • Disinfect countertops: Soap and water are great cleaning agents, but they’re not disinfecting agents. After washing countertops with soap and hot water, disinfect them with a solution of 1 – 3 tablespoons of household chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Use a countertop cleaner on granite countertops.
    • Replace old cutting boards: Salmonella and other bacteria can get into the cracks of cutting boards and be difficult to remove. Replace cutting boards regularly.
    • Avoid cross contamination: Use color-coded cutting boards and utensils for meat, veggies and fish. Or instead put a dab of non-toxic paint on boards and utensils to tell them apart. For example, use red for meat, green for veggies and blue for fish.
    • Thaw in the refrigerator: Do not thaw foods at room temperature. Don’t refreeze foods once they have been completely thawed.
    • Store water in the pantry: Don’t keep bottled water in your garage or near cleaning products. Gasoline and any products that have a vapor – such as oven cleaner and paints – can penetrate plastic water bottles that are slightly permeable.

Have a question about food safety? Call the FDA’s Safe Food Information line at 888-SAFE-FOOD.

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Date Last Reviewed: July 13, 2021

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Jane Schwartz, RD

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