WalkJogRun is always about meeting new people! Our neighbor here at the office is a Chicago non-profit, STOP Foodborne Illness. We were interested in their work and learned a ton about food and food safety after speaking with them. We wanted one of their members to share her knowledge so all of our readers could be informed as well! Guest Blog Post by Gail Stephens of STOP Foodborne Illness
I am an avid cyclist and runner, and I try to be careful about what I put inside my body so I can always perform at my best, mentally and physically. However, I never considered that my “healthy choices” could make me very sick. That was, until I took a job with STOP Foodborne Illness, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention of illness and death from foodborne pathogens, such as E. coli and Salmonella. These microbes are impossible to see with the naked eye, and are never featured on an ingredient list.
My father was a runner. I remember him drinking tiger's milk (orange juice and milk…yes it is as good as it sounds), and sometimes he would even crack a raw egg into a glass and drink it ‐ GROSS! They now sell in-shell pasteurized eggs, which would have made his egg cocktail safe. Otherwise, raw egg and undercooked meat are not safe ways of getting protein.Proper cooking temperatures are essential to ensuring your meat is safe. We shouldn't have to worry about pathogens in our food supply, but unfortunately we do.
There is some good news:
Much of the typical “runner” food is actually very shelf-stable and quite safe. GU, Clif Bars and Luna Bars are all good choices if you cannot refrigerate your snacks. Even though they often contain dairy, they are processed in such a way that makes them safe to take in a backpack on a day trip. Bananas are a nutritional powerhouse, and one of the most food safe fresh items on the market. The peel protects the fruit (not to mention providing a convenient way to carry them). You do not need to wash the outside, just peel and enjoy! While bagels and breads do carry a risk of mold, they are usually not as likely to be contaminated.
The bottom line is, like with anything else, there is always a risk with anything you eat. Although it should not be up to us to determine whether or not our food is safe, there are some things you can do to reduce the possibility of contracting a foodborne illness.
Here are 5 things YOU can do (fact sheets available here):
- Use a Food Thermometer: The color and texture of meat do not accurately indicate whether or not the food item is safe to eat. Here is a list of US Government recommended minimum cooking temperatures.
- Wash Your Hands: You can actually spread germs if you touch different foods and surfaces without washing. Using soap and water, rub hands (including backs of wrists and tips of fingers) together for about 20 seconds. The friction from rubbing (the scientific term is agitation) is what really gets your hands clean.
- Watch for Recalls: Check your kitchen for recalled items and make sure you throw out all contaminated products so that no one in your home eats anything unsafe. STOP Foodborne Illness sends out timely emails with recall and outbreak information. Sign up for STOP's E-alerts here.
- Never Place Food You Plan to Eat in the Kitchen Sink: The kitchen sink is probably the dirtiest place in your kitchen. Who knows what potentially hazardous microbes may be lurking, and multiplying there? You certainly do not want any of them in your next meal. Also, it is actually safer NOT to rinse raw meat. When you wash something like chicken, water droplets that touch the meat can spray and contaminate other surfaces in the kitchen.
- Keep Your Refrigerated Food Safe: Refrigerate food promptly, but remember that putting something hot into your fridge raises the temperature of everything already in there. Your fridge should be set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) or lower. Place leftovers in shallow containers so food cools down more quickly, and make sure air can circulate properly in your refrigerator. Another important tip: keep raw meat on the bottom shelf or drawer, so juices do not drip onto other ready-to-eat foods.
WANT TO SUPPORT STOP? Participate in our annual WALK FOR STOP!
Get your walking shoes ready and your fall jacket out! It's time for the second annual "Walk for STOP." We all live in different parts of the world, but on October 29th we'll be unified in our goal to end foodborne illness. You decide the distance of your walk, and you decide your fundraising goal. Anyone can participate in the walk, from any location!
How it works: The choice is yours!
You could walk 5 miles and raise $500 in honor or in memory of someone who has suffered from a foodborne illness
How about walking a block for every $10 donated
Why not form a team and do it together
All proceeds will help prevent foodborne illness! Prizes will be awarded to the top 3 fundraisers.
Busy on the 29th? No worries! There are alternate dates! Email Margaret for details.
If you would like more tips on food safety, check out WalkJogRun's latest podcast episode