HENDRICKS COUNTY — Many residents have just wrapped up their Independence Day celebrations while others are feverishly planning the details of the next big get-together. Summer is the season of weddings, parties, and potlucks. The one thing at the center of these gatherings is a large shared meal, oftentimes prepared by either a caterer or a willing family member. Even if the meal is well-received and enjoyed by all, the after-effects of food-poisoning from a meal prepared with unsafe preparation practices can be felt for weeks.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1 in 6 Americans will experience a food-borne illness this year due to contamination. Common symptoms of food-poisoning include: upset stomach, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. While food-poisoning is typically accidental, preventing contamination can be easy if one follows the following simple guidelines when preparing food:
- CLEAN — “Washing your hands with hot water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food is the best and first step to preventing food-borne illness,” recommends Krista Click, Director of Environmental Health at Hendricks County Health Department. “It’s also important to regularly wash any utensils and surfaces used for food preparation.”
- SEPARATE — Keeping different types of food separate before preparation can be easy to forget. “Foods such as raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs are especially prone to having harmful bacteria that may spread to surrounding foods if not kept separate,” says Click. “Use separate utensils, containers, and surfaces for preparing these and other fresh food items throughout the prepping and storing process.”
- COOK — Many often leave the thermometer in the drawer, skipping this important step. “Just because a food item appears to be cooked does not mean it is cooked to a safe temperature to kill all bacteria,” says Click. “145° Fahrenheit is the minimum cooking temperature for most whole meats, 155° for ground meats, and 165° degrees Fahrenheit for poultry and any reheated leftovers.”
- CHILL — Sometimes, refrigerators are not kept cold enough. “Whether storing food in preparation for the celebration, or storing leftovers after it’s all over, your refrigerator should be kept at 40° or cooler,” says Click. “Don’t wait any longer than two hours to put the leftovers away.”
One area that is often overlooked by hosts is asking for proper licensing when a caterer is hired for an event. All catering businesses are required to be licensed and permitted in their county to operate and serve at both public and private events.
“If you hire an unlicensed caterer for your event, you are unknowingly increasing the chances that your guests will get food-poisoning due to unsafe preparation,” says Click. “Do yourself and your guests a favor by asking for a copy of the license/permit before hiring a caterer.”
For more information about food safety, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/index.html, https://www.co.hendricks.in.us/topic/index.php?topicid=67&structureid=16, or call the Hendricks County Health Department at 317-745-9217.