Effingham, IL – Even though foodborne illnesses are largely preventable, an estimated 1 in 6 Americans become sick from consuming contaminated food and beverages each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths related to foodborne illness occur in the U.S. annually.

Food is an essential part of our lives, so make food safety a priority this National Food Safety Education Month (and every day)! Whether it’s at a grocery store, restaurant, home kitchen, or anywhere in between, there are many ways to prioritize food safety and prevent the spread of germs that cause foodborne illness.

Remember to follow the four simple steps of food safety: clean, separate, cook, and chill.

1. Clean hands and surfaces often. Even though we can’t see them, there are millions of germs that hide on our hands and can contaminate the foods or utensils we touch.

2. Separate raw meats, poultry, seafood, and eggs from other ready-to-eat foods. Raw animal products contain a variety of microbes that are killed in the cooking process. Using separate cutting boards, utensils, and dishes during food preparation helps protect ready-to-eat foods from cross-contamination.

3. Cook all foods to the right temperature. Sight alone is not a reliable method to determine whether your food is fully cooked – be sure to use a metal food thermometer to properly monitor cooking temperatures.

4. Chill (refrigerate) leftovers safely and rapidly. Bacteria grow most rapidly when they are in the Temperature Danger Zone (41° F to 135° F). Be sure to refrigerate leftover foods within 2 hours of when the food is removed from heat or taken out of the fridge to prevent rapid bacterial growth.

Symptoms of foodborne illness can include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and flu-like symptoms such as fever, headaches, and body aches. Remember that those at risk of more severe and even life-threatening symptoms from foodborne illness include older adults, infants, young children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems. If you become ill, especially with severe symptoms, seek care from a medical provider immediately.

For more information on proper food safety practices, please contact the Effingham County Health Department at 217-342-9237 or visit our website https://effcohealth.org/environmental-health/food-safety/