Food Safety:Foodborne Illness
  • What is foodborne illness, and what are the symptoms?
  • How can I prevent foodborne illness?
  • Is it safe to eat lightly cooked egg dishes, or use recipes that call for raw eggs?
  • Is it dangerous to eat raw or "rare" ground beef?
  • Is it safe to eat moldy cheese or salami if I cut away the mold? What about fruit, jelly, or bread?

What is foodborne illness, and what are the symptoms?

Foodborne illness often presents itself as flu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or fever, so many people may not recognize the illness is caused by bacteria or other pathogens in food.
Thousands of types of bacteria are naturally present in our environment. Not all bacteria cause disease in humans. For example, some bacteria are used beneficially in making cheese and yogurt.
Bacteria that cause disease are called pathogens. When certain pathogens enter the food supply, they can cause foodborne illness. Millions of cases of foodborne illness occur each year. Most cases of foodborne illness can be prevented. Proper cooking or processing of food destroys bacteria.
Age and physical condition place some persons at higher risk than others, no matter what type of bacteria is implicated. Very young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems are at greatest risk from any pathogen. Some persons may become ill after ingesting only a few harmful bacteria; others may remain symptom free after ingesting thousands. (Source: Foodborne Illness: What Consumers Need To Know)

How can I prevent foodborne illness?
There are four basic steps to follow:

  • Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often
  • Separate: Don't cross-contaminate
  • Cook: Cook to proper temperatures
  • Chill: Refrigerate promptly

For more information, see this Web site for Fact Sheets such as Basics for Handling Food Safely. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has information available www.cdc.gov/foodsafety. Or, visit the Partnership for Food Safety Education Web site at www.fightbac.org.
(Source: Basics for Handling Food Safely)


Is it safe to eat lightly cooked egg dishes, or use recipes that call for raw eggs?

Today some unbroken fresh shell eggs may contain certain bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. The bacteria areSalmonella enteritidis. While the number of eggs affected is quite small, there have been some scattered outbreaks in the last few years. Currently the government, the egg industry and the scientific community are working together to solve the problem.
Researchers say that if present, the Salmonella bacteria are usually in the yolk or "yellow." But they can't rule out the bacteria being in egg whites. So everyone is advised against eating raw or undercooked egg yolks, whites or products containing them.
People with health problems, the very young, the elderly and pregnant women (the risk is to the unborn child) are particularly vulnerable to Salmonella enteritidis infections. A chronic illness weakens the immune system making the person vulnerable to foodborne illnesses.
(Source: Shell Eggs from Farm to Table)


Is it dangerous to eat raw or "rare" ground beef?

Yes. Raw meat may contain harmful bacteria. USDA recommends not eating or tasting raw or undercooked ground beef. To be sure all bacteria are destroyed, cook meat loaf, meat balls, casseroles, and hamburgers to 160 °F as measured with a food thermometer.
Think about this... 1 out of every 4 hamburgers turns brown in the middle BEFORE it has reached a safe internal temperature, according to USDA research. (Sources: Ground Beef and Food Safety; Use A Food Thermometer)


Is it safe to eat moldy cheese or salami if I cut away the mold? What about fruit, jelly, or bread?

Some molds are used to make certain kinds of cheeses including Roquefort, blue, Gorgonzola, Stilton, Camembert, and Brie. The mold on these cheeses is safe to eat. Mold on other types of cheeses should not be there. Discard any soft cheese showing mold. For hard cheese, such as Cheddar, cut off at least 1-inch around and below the mold spot (keep the knife out of the mold itself). After trimming off the mold, the remaining cheese should be safe to eat. Re-cover the cheese in fresh wrap and keep refrigerated.
Do not buy or use moldy meats. Fresh meat and poultry are usually mold free, but cured meats and smoked turkey may not be. Examine them carefully. Exceptions: Some salamis–San Francisco, Italian and Eastern European types–have a characteristic thin, white mold coating. they shouldn't show any other mold. Dry-cured country hams have surface mold that must be scrubbed off before cooking.
Discard any soft fruits or vegetables, jams and jellies, bread, and baked goods that show signs of mold. (Source: Molds on Food: Are They Dangerous?)

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