Why Is Practicing Food Safety Important for Your Health?

Imagine looking forward to eating your favorite food. You’ve been waiting all day for it and finally have time to sit and enjoy the meal. However, it makes you sick to your stomach. One of the most likely culprits behind the sour experience is compromised food safety.

What Food Safety Means

Food safety means carefully handling, preparing and storing food. Humans need sustenance every day and night to function. However, most meat, produce and other ingredients need to be washed, cooked or frozen in a certain way. These practices ensure the substances you put into your body are safe to consume.

Government entities like the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service are responsible for sanitation, laying out processes and guidelines for handlers like farmers, suppliers and restaurants. That said, even households share responsibility for taking care of food when it’s in their possession. 

The Importance of Food Safety

Food safety is vital for various reasons, from a health perspective to an environmental standpoint. Each individual should consider these reasons the next time they’re handling food, whether for themselves or someone else. 

1. To Avoid Foodborne Illnesses

The main reason for practicing food safety is to avoid sickness. Foodborne illnesses cause about 48 million sicknesses and 3,000 deaths yearly in the United States. Even the toughest stomachs are susceptible to contaminated dishes and their symptoms.

Here are some examples of foodborne illnesses:

  • Salmonella: Salmonella is a bacterial disease caused by consuming raw or undercooked meat and eggs. Unpasteurized milk can also induce salmonella poisoning. The infection can cause nausea, stomach cramps and intense vomiting. 
  • E. coli: Escherichia coli or E. coli targets a human’s gut health. The bacteria usually manifests in the intestines of cattle before processing. A severe infection can result in stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea.
  • Shigella: Shigella causes shigellosis, which affects the intestines. This condition occurs when consuming food or water with infected fecal matter. Most people who undergo shigellosis experience stomach pain and prolonged diarrhea.
  • Hepatitis A: The Hepatitis A virus causes liver inflammation. This condition occurs when food or drinks contain traces of the virus. Hepatitis A is contagious and can spark fevers, loss of appetite and stomach pain.

2. To Prevent Economic Distress

Compromising food safety in a commercial setting can have many economic repercussions. Businesses that forgo proper practices can spread all kinds of foodborne illnesses to their clients. As a result, they will have to shoulder medical expenses and face lawsuits. They may even face bankruptcy if they cannot recover.

Many food businesses shutting down can cause an imbalance in the community. Tax revenue significantly goes down. Plus, a company that provides many jobs means several individuals will be out of work. 

3. To Keep the Household Going

Forgoing food safety in a residential setting can often equate to food insecurity, which affects around one in nine households in America. The main reason behind this phenomenon is a lack of access to fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and poultry. However, forsaking so many ingredients also means you might not have much left to cook or eat. 

In addition, if a loved one catches a foodborne illness due to a lack of food safety, you must nurse them back to health. Incorporate hygiene practices to prevent your household from getting sick.

4. To Achieve Sustainability

Another reason to practice food safety is to achieve sustainability. About 17% of global food production goes to waste. When it gets contaminated, you must choose between getting sick or throwing the contents away in a landfill. 

Food already uses many resources, from land to water to labor. Production, transportation, processing and packaging also contribute their share of greenhouse gas emissions. When they’re thrown away, they create a carbon footprint for nothing.

Food safety is vital to prevent food loss in the long run. The practices under this concept also promote mindful energy consumption throughout the process. Calculating and minimizing your food waste reduces your footprint.

5. To Have a Good Experience

One of the last reasons to practice food safety is to have a good experience. Food is necessary to fuel up for the day, but it’s also one of life’s pleasures. For some, food is a sacred part of their culture. For others, it’s a treat to showcase love for other people.

Food safety means creating a delightful experience for yourself or someone important. Take a few extra steps to enjoy and savor a meal without worrying about illness or waste afterward. 

Achieving Food Safety

After confirming the importance of food sanitation, the next step is to determine how to achieve it. Each ingredient has its own intricate rules for preparation and cooking. Understanding the steps that keep your food safe and consumption-ready is important.

1. Store Food Properly

Most fresh ingredients are perishable. Freeze them to extend their shelf life. For example, raw fish should be frozen at -4 degrees Fahrenheit for a week. If you plan to consume a particular food sooner, you can chill it instead until you’re ready to cook.

Make sure you’re using clean and safe containers when storing food. Certain kinds of plastics and glass can turn brittle due to the freezing temperatures. 

Check the labels for instructions on how to store nonperishable or processed food like canned goods or store-bought sauces. Some products may require refrigeration, but the cabinet can suffice for others. Keep track of expiration dates to steer clear of spoilage.

2. Avoid Cross-Contamination

Food distributors take reasonable care to avoid bacterial or virus transfer. However, individuals should still prevent cross-contamination at home to practice food safety. Here are some steps:

  • Sanitize hands: Hands are susceptible to germs. Wash with water and soap before handling food preparation or cooking. Scrub for at least 20 seconds before rinsing to stay healthy. 
  • Wash food: Only mix different ingredients if they are clean. Fruit and vegetable peels contain germs that can get inside the produce. Put it under running water to clear the dirt and debris.
  • Utilize utensils: Tasting food while cooking is necessary to ensure you’re doing everything right. However, you shouldn’t use your cooking utensils. Transfer the broth or piece to a tasting spoon to put into your mouth without contaminating the pot.
  • Clean surfaces: Cutting up potatoes or rolling out the dough? Before putting food onto the counter or cutting board, ensure the surface is clean. Avoid toxic chemical cleaners since their residue can affect the food. 

3. Cook at the Right Temperature

Many foodborne illnesses are caused by undercooked meat and vegetables. Cook everything all the way through. Beef and sausages should be fully brown. Meanwhile, eggs should be opaque rather than transparent so they are safe for consumption. 

Keep crustaceans in the stove or oven until the flesh isn’t translucent. Wait for clam and oyster shells to open to know they’re fully cooked.

4. Defrost and Heat Wisely

Frozen foods can be challenging to cook straight out of the refrigerator, so defrost your ingredients beforehand. You can adjust the temperature in the freezer or submerge the food in cold tap water. Microwave thawing also works. After thawing food, cook and eat it within the day rather than refreezing it to preserve quality.

5. Utilize Clean Water

Use clean water to rinse your food or use as a base for your dish. Contaminated water likely contains microorganisms that can cause foodborne illnesses. Be careful so you save your stomach from discomfort. Distilled is recommended, but you can also filter and boil your own water to remove any impurities lingering in it. 

Drinking water shouldn’t be your only consideration, however. It’s crucial to pay attention to the water you use to brush your teeth and shower as well. Ensure your tap water is free from contaminants. Avoid swallowing water when showering or brushing your teeth with tap water if you’re concerned it may be contaminated, especially while traveling. 

Uphold Food Safety

Practicing food safety is vital for your health. Even if you’re just making a home-cooked meal for yourself, go to great lengths to keep your dish virus-free. That way, you’ll have a good experience and prevent ingredients from going to waste.

Beth Rush
Author: Beth Rush

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