Food Safety

There are ever more frequent food recalls these days. The health department receives notice, then faxes it to local groceries so that they may take the appropriate action. Following is the link to the Department of Agriculture website where you may find a list of the year’s recall notices: Click on Spotlights – Food recalls. If you choose to look at one, click on the Division ID for the notice.

Handling Foods during a Power Outage

A natural disaster or terrorist attack could cause electricity to be interrupted. The important phrase to remember is, “When in doubt, throw it out.”!

The appearance of the food is not always a good indication of the safety of the food. Most foods will be safe in the refrigerator for two hours and in the freezer for four hours if the doors remain shut. If foods remain above 40°F for more than two hours, they should be thrown out. If you have portable generators, camp stoves, and charcoal grills, use them outdoors only. These items can produce dangerous carbon monoxide if not ventilated.

If you have any questions about what foods can be kept or discarded during a power outage, contact your local health department.

by Terri Argent
Registered Sanitarian

Safe Handling of Fruits and Vegetables.

Safe Handling of Fruits and Vegetables.

This PMA member service was compiled by Produce Marketing Association, P. 0. Box 6036, Newark, DE 19714-6036; phone 302-738-7100, fax 302-731-2409;

Fruits and vegetables are a mainstay of the American diet Consumers should eat more fruits and vegetables for better health. Here’s how you can ensure that produce is safe and wholesome. Each year, people get sick from foods that have not been properly handled, refrigerated, or cooked. If food isn’t carefully handled, germs can grow to levels that make people sick. Rarely are fruits and vegetables linked with such illness. Providing consumers with safe, wholesome fruits and vegetables is the first priority of farmers and your produce manager. Consumers also play an important role in making sure the food they eat is good for them and their families. Here’s some important information about safe handling.

What the fresh fruit and vegetable industry does.

Farm workers follow strict guidelines when harvesting and packing to be sure the fruits and vegetables are clean. Most produce is washed at the packing house Trucks used to ship produce are washed and kept at appropriate temperatures. At the store, produce workers also follow detailed federal and state handling guidelines, keep produce at the right temperature, and take old product off the shelf. The produce industry also uses Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) programs. These scientific programs identify points where produce could become contaminated. Once these points are identified, growers, processors, shippers, and retailers implement safety programs to prevent contamination.

What consumers can do.

At the store:

Trust your senses. Look for fresh-looking fruits and vegetables that are not bruised, shriveled, moldy, or slimy. Don’t buy anything that smells bad. Don’t buy packaged vegetables that look slimy. Some fruits will have their own juice and some vegetables are packed in water, and that’s OK. Buy only what you need. Most fresh fruits and vegetables are not “stock-up” items. Some, such as apples, potatoes, and most citrus can be stored at home, but most items should be bought to be used within a few days. Handle produce gently at the store. Keep produce on top in the cart (putting groceries on top of produce will bruise it). Set produce gently on the checkout belt so it doesn’t bruise. Some items that seem hardy, such as cauliflower, actually are very delicate and bruise easily.

At home:

Put produce away promptly. Keep most of your produce in the crisper. It has a slightly higher humidity than the rest of the refrigerator, and this is better for fruits and vegetables. Remember to keep all cut fruits and vegetables covered in the refrigerator. Throw away produce you have kept too long — if it is moldy or slimy, smells bad, or is past the “best if used by” date. Once you’re ready to eat your fresh fruits and vegetables, handle them properly. Germs can adhere to the surface of produce and can be passed to the flesh when the item is cut or handled. Therefore, the most important thing you can do is wash all fruits and vegetables in clean drinking water before eating. This applies to all fruits and vegetables, even if you don’t eat the rind or skin (such as melons and oranges). Remember to wash produce just before you use it, not when you put it away. The one exception is leafy greens, such as lettuce, which should be rinsed before refrigerating to maintain their crispness. In addition to washing, you should: Peel and discard outer leaves or rinds. Scrub hearty vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots, if you want to eat the fiber- and nutrient-rich skin.

  • Clean surfaces, utensils, and hands after touching raw meat and poultry and before you use them on fresh produce.
  • Keep refrigerators clean and cold. Cover/refrigerate produce you have cut.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom or changing diapers,
    and before preparing food.
  • Read and follow label instructions, such as “keep refrigerated” or “use by (a
    certain date).” This information is on most items precut for you at the store.
  • Hold prepared fruit salads and other cut produce items in the refrigerator until
    just before serving. Discard cut produce items if they have been out of the
    refrigerator for four hours or more.
  • Most importantly, enjoy fresh produce – a great-tasting way to good health.

Salmonellosis Foodborne Illness

This PMA member service was compiled by Produce Marketing Association, P. 0. Box 6036, Newark, DE 19714-6036, phone 302-738-7100, fax 302-731-2409,

The Produce Marketing Association offers the following information on foodborne disease from the National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control, in Atlanta. For further information on Salmonellosis, contact the Division of Bacterial & Mycotic Diseases, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Rd NE, Mailstop C-09, Atlanta, GA 30333.

Who is at risk; how great is the risk?

The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have severe illness. Every year, about 30,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported in the United States. Because many milder cases are not diagnosed or reported, the actual number of infections may be 20 to 100 times greater. Salmonellosis is more common in the summer than winter. Children are the most likely to get salmonellosis.

How does Salmonella get into food?

The Salmonella germ is a family of bacteria that can cause diarrhea illness in humans. They are microscopic living creatures that pass in the feces of animals and infected people. There are many different kinds of Salmonella bacteria. Salmonella serotypes Typhimurium and Enteritidis are the most common in the United States. Salmonella bacteria have been known to cause illness for more than 100 years.

Salmonella are usually transmitted to humans who eat foods contaminated with animal feces. Contaminated food usually looks and smells normal. Contaminated foods are often of animal origin, such as beef, poultry, milk, or eggs, but any food, including fruits and vegetables, may become contaminated. Food may also become contaminated if an infected food handier forgets to wash his or her hands with soap after using the bathroom.

What are the symptoms?

Most persons infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps eight to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts five to seven days, and most persons recover without treatment.

However, sometimes the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Rarely, the Salmonella infection may spread from intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites; it can cause serious illness or death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.

A small number of persons who are infected with Salmonella will go on to develop pains in their joints,irritation of the eyes, and painful urination. This is called Reiter’s syndrome. It can last for months or years and can lead to chronic arthritis that is difficult to treat.

Many different kinds of germs can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. Laboratory tests can identify Salmonella in the stool of an infected person.

How can you reduce the risk?

Thorough cooking kills Salmonella. No one should eat raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, or meat. Raw eggs may not be recognized in some food such as hollandaise sauce, caesar and other salad dressings, and other foods. Poultry and meat, including hamburgers, should be well-cooked – not pink in the middle. Consumers also should avoid raw or unpasteurized milk or other dairy products. Produce should be thoroughly washed before eating.

Cross-contamination of foods should be avoided.

Uncooked meats should be kept separate from produce, ewoked foods, and ready-to-eat foods. Hands, cutting boards, counters, knives, and other utensils should be washed thoroughly after handling uncooked foods. Hands should be washed before handling any food and between handling different food items.

People who have salmonellosis should not work as food handlers in restaurants until they have been shown to no longer be carrying the Salmonella bacterium. Consumers should avoid contact with animal feces and wash their hands after contact with feces.

What can you do to prevent salmonellosis?

  • Cook poultry, ground beef, and eggs thoroughly. Do not eat or drink foods containing raw eggs, or raw (unpasteurized) milk.
  • If you are served under-cooked meat, poultry or eggs in a restaurant, don’t hesitate to send it back to the kitchen for further cooking.
  • Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry.
  • Be particularly careful with foods prepared for infants, the elderly, and those with a compromised immune system.
  • Wash hands with soap after handling reptiles, birds, including baby chicks, and after contact with pet feces.
  • Avoid direct or even indirect contact between reptiles (turtles, iguanas, other lizards, snakes) and infants or those with a compromised immune system.
  • Don’t work with raw poultry or meat and an infant (e.g., feeding, changing a diaper) at the same time.
  • Mother’s milk is the safest food for young infants. Breastfeeding prevents salmonellosis and many other health problems.

More information about salmonella can be found on the CDC website:, the FDA website: , and the ODH website at

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