Beyond the Plate

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Food Safety 2010 by Melinda Hemmelgarn, M.S., R.D.

Did you know?

What happens to recalled food? Food regulatory agencies require contaminated food to be handled in a way that does not pose a threat to humans or animals. Sometimes the food can be "re-conditioned," by heating, or pasteurization. In other cases, the food is destroyed and sent to a landfill. Economics, public health, public relations all factor into how the firm responsible for the recalled food proceeds. All of the eggs from the Iowa hen houses implicated in the recent outbreak are being sent to egg pasteurization plants. (12)

Half of all reported foodborne illness occurs in children under 15 years of age. Children are disproportionately affected because their immune systems are still developing, they have reduced stomach acid which decreases their capacity to kill harmful bacteria; and, they have lower body weight, reducing the dose of a pathogen needed to make them sick. (13)

Safe home food handling practices reduce your risk of foodborne illness:

  • As much as possible, know the source of your food and how it was produced. Check labels for ingredients that are not "safe" for your health.
  • Wash hands and all cooking and counter surfaces before and after food preparation.
  • Prevent "cross-contamination." Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs separate from foods that will not be cooked.
  • Use a meat thermometer to guarantee your food reaches a safe internal temperature. See the temperature chart at
  • Avoid temperature abuse: Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Bacteria grow best between 40 and 140 degrees F. – the "danger zone."
  • Report suspected foodborne illness to your physician or county health department.
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