Health and Family Services Cabinet
Remember Food Safety as You Celebrate the Labor Day Holiday
As preparations for the holiday weekend begin, the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) continues to emphasize the importance of food safety during this time of get-togethers and end of summer cookouts with friends and family.
“We want everyone to enjoy the holiday – and that means avoiding illness and staying healthy,” said Acting DPH Commissioner Steve Davis, M.D. “Foodborne illness is a serious public health threat that can be extremely debilitating and sometimes deadly. It is important to always practice good food safety habits to help lower your risk of illness.”
Foodborne illness is common throughout the United States. The CDC estimates that about 1 in 6 Americans get sick from foodborne illness each year. Bacteria such as Campylobacter and Salmonella and viruses such as Norovirus have been commonly linked to foodborne outbreaks. Foods that have been mishandled, undercooked, or held in conditions where bacteria and viruses can thrive have contributed to these outbreaks.
“The recent Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak in Kentucky reminds us of the importance of good food handling practices,” said Mark Reed, manager of the food safety branch in public health. “It is extremely important to properly wash produce items that are intended to be eaten raw, to cook foods thoroughly, as well as ensure that utensils we use in food preparation are clean. As always, we stress that if a particular item is in doubt, throw it out!”
As you head into the holiday weekend, the Department for Public Health would like to remind you of a few food tips to follow when preparing for your picnic events.
• Pack safely. Keep cold foods cold. Place cold food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs and replenish the ice as needed. Don’t put the cooler in the car trunk or directly in the sun; Keep the lid closed and avoid repeated openings.
• Clean fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water before cutting or eating. Firm skinned fruits such as melons should also be scrubbed with a clean vegetable brush to help remove any contamination. Cut melon should be refrigerated or stored on ice.
• Keep hands and utensils clean when preparing food.
• Cook foods to the correct temperature to kill bacteria and use a food thermometer to check when foods are done. Hamburgers should be cooked to at least 155 degrees and chicken should be cooked to at least 165. Remember to use a clean plate when taking cooked food items off the grill. Do not use the same plate that held the raw meat!
• Plan ahead. Try to limit the amount of leftovers and place perishable food items in a cooler with ice freezer packs as quickly as possible after food is served. Food left out for more than two hours may not be safe to eat.
DPH wishes all Kentuckians a safe holiday. For more information about safe picnic planning, call Pam Hendren in the Food Safety Branch at (502) 564-7181 or your local health department’s environmental health specialist.