By Brandee Turney, Environmental Public Health Supervisor at Springfield-Greene County Health
The nights are becoming brisk, and the leaves are beginning to change as we welcome Autumn to the Ozarks. Along with Autumn we also welcome Food Safety Awareness Month in September. As the fall festivals begin, there are a few food safety tips that are helpful to know.
1. Wash hands
It is important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before handling food.
2. Prevent bare hand contact
In conjunction with handwashing, preventing bare hands from coming into contact with foods is key. According to the National Institute of Health, approximately 50% of the population carry Staphylococcus Aureus (Staph) bacteria on their skin, predominantly in the mucous membranes and the hands. While this bacterium does not pose a serious threat to your health while on the hands, it can cause illness if incubated on food items. The Center for Disease Control tells us that the symptoms of Staph food poisoning include sudden start of nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramps. The best way to avoid sharing these pathogens with friends and family is to use utensils to handle food, instead of your hands.
Here are a few ways you can prevent using bare hands:
- Use tongs, scoops, spoons, and other utensils
- Use gloves to handle food items
- Use tissue paper, plastic wrap, foil, etc. for handing out items like cookies and cupcakes
3. Throw away old foods
A method for serving food at a gathering safely is to use ice to keep cold foods at a temperature of 41F or below or use slow cookers to keep hot foods above 135F. To avoid food waste, put out small portions and bring out a new tray when needed. Do not keep foods that have been left out at room temperature for more than 4 hours. Examples of foods that need temperature control are:
- Hot dogs
- Meat and cheese trays
- Buffalo cheese dip
- Seven-layer dip
- Cream pie, pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie
4. Stay home when sick
Did you know? There are several pathogens that can be spread through handling foods when sick. Some of those pathogens live in the digestive tract, like E. Coli, and some can come from the mucous membranes like Staph. Stay home when experiencing symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, sore throat with fever, or jaundice. These could be signs of illnesses that can be spread through food.
As we slip on our favorite sweaters and get ready to head out to the fall festivities, we can truly enjoy our time together by avoiding habits that may spread foodborne illness. By handling food properly, we can spend less time sick and more time making memories with friends and family.
Brandee Turney joined Springfield-Greene County Health in 2020 in the Environmental Health Program, after two years as an Environmental Public Health Specialist at Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. Brandee has accepted the role of Environmental Public Health Supervisor with over five years of experience in the field. Brandee holds degrees in Animal Science and Business and Marketing from Missouri State University. In her free time she likes to travel, play video games, and go on float trips with her husband and two kids.