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September 1, 2023

National Food Safety Month with Avance Care Nutrition

by Nicole Golinski, MA, RDN, LDN

September is national food safety month. The prevalence of foodborne illnesses in the United States may be higher than you think. (1) The Federal government estimates that there are 48 million cases of foodborne illness annually, which equates to 1 in 6 Americans. (1) Of the 48 million cases of foodborne illness per year, 128,000 require hospitalizations and 3,000 individuals die. (1) Certain individuals are at higher risk for developing complications from food born illnesses (i.e., individuals suffering from cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS or post-transplant patients). (1)

Common Foodborne Illnesses

One of the most common foodborne illnesses is Campylobacter and symptoms last up to a week and include nausea, cramps, fever, and diarrhea. (2) The Campylobacter infection is caused by consuming raw or undercooked meat/poultry, unpasteurized milk, or contaminated water. (2) Another commonly known bacteria is Salmonella; symptoms can start 6 hours to 6 days after infection and include: fever, stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea. (2) Most symptoms typically last for 4-7 days. (2) Some of the sources associated with Salmonella infection include raw or undercooked eggs, undercooked poultry, vegetables, and unpasteurized milk. (2) By utilizing the helpful tips below, you can become a more informed consumer and reduce your risk of getting sick.

Cleaning Produce

For produce, wash with cold running water before cutting and rub the skin to remove any wax or visible dirt. (3) If you are cleaning tubers (ie carrots, potatoes, beets) it may be beneficial to use a vegetable brush. These can be purchased at any grocery store and are cheap (average price is about $4). (3) Even if you do not intend on consuming the peel of the vegetable/fruit, it is still important to wash the produce. It is not recommended to wash with diluted bleach, commercial produce wash or soaps because produce is porous, and they may absorb the cleaning agents. (4) Additionally, the safety of commercial produce wash is not known, and their effectiveness has not been tested. (4)

Minimize Cross Contamination

Another important aspect of food safety is reducing the risk of bacterial cross contamination between raw and cooked items. To help minimize cross contamination, use different cutting boards, utensils, and plates for raw and cooked foods.

Tip: have designated colors for different cutting boards (i.e., red = raw meat, yellow= raw poultry, blue = raw fish, green = vegetables/fruit, orange = bread).

Additionally, do not rinse or wash raw meat/poultry/seafood as this may cause bacteria from the raw item to spread. (5) It is also important to store all raw meats, poultry, fish, and shellfish, on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator and to completely cover to prevent drippage. (5) Finally, consider using machine washable cotton/fabric reusable bags because they can be easily cleaned after carrying raw meat.

Storing Food

To minimize bacterial growth, food should not be kept out of the refrigerator for longer than 2 hours. (6) When transferring the cooked food to containers, place the food in a shallow container to cool quicker. (6) Ensure the refrigerator has an internal temperature below 40˚F and a freezer temperature below 0 ˚F. (6)

Debunking Common Food Myths

  1. It is good practice to wash raw meat before cooking. Answer: False – It is not recommended to wash raw meat as this increases the likelihood of spreading bacteria in the kitchen. Instead, make sure meat is thoroughly cooked before eating.
  2. It’s safe to thaw meat on the kitchen counter. Answer: False – Thawing meat on the kitchen counter can cause the growth of bacteria because it is not a temperature-controlled environment. It is best practice to thaw meat in the refrigerator. Typically, boneless meat/poultry takes up to 24 hours to thaw and bone-in meat takes 2 days or longer to thaw. If you are in a pinch and need to thaw meat quickly, you can submerge the meat under cold running tap water. It is best to change the water every 30 minutes to ensure the water is cold. Thawing time will change depending on the size of the meat, but typically 1 pound will take 30 minutes.
  3. The best way to see if poultry has been thoroughly cooked, is to cook the meat until there is no longer any pink. Answer: False – relying on color is not a reliable way to determine if the food is safe to eat. Instead, check the internal temperature with a digital thermometer and cook the chicken until you get a reading 165˚F. It is encouraged to do this with other meats/seafoods. See below for safe internal temperatures for other food products. (7)
  • Pork chops/tenderloin: 145˚F (let rest for 3 minutes)
  • Pork (ground): 160 ˚F
  • Beef/bison/lamb (for steaks/roast/chops): 145 ˚F (let rest for 3 minutes)
  • Ground beef/sausage: 160 ˚F
  • Egg dishes (ie quiche): 160 ˚F
  • Fish (ie salmon, trout, cod, etc): 145˚F

If you are interested in exploring more ways to prevent the spread of foodborne illness or learning other ways to optimize your health, book an appointment online with a dietitian or call our Nutrition Coordinators at (919) 237-1337, option 4 today.


  1. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (n.d.). Safe food handling. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  2. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (n.d.). Safe food handling. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  3. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (n.d.). Safe food handling. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  4. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (n.d.-b). Selecting and serving produce safely. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  5. Avoiding cross-contamination. Food Standards Agency. (n.d.).
  6. National Food Safety Education month. Partnership for Food Safety Education. (2022, September 7).
  7. Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (ASPA). (2022, December 16). Cook to a safe minimum internal temperature.

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