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Surprising Facts About Food Safety

Bridget Swinney, MS RD
By Bridget Swinney, MS RD

I’ll admit it, I’ve been known to be a bit fanatical about food safety. At work, it drives me crazy when people eat food that’s been sitting out for many hours. At home, antibacterial wipes make their appearance nearly every time someone cracks an egg.

But the truth is, you are just as likely, or possibly more likely, to get sick from eating “out” than eating “in.”

Why? There are “more fingers in the pot,” so to speak. The farmer grows the produce, which is passed on to a packager, then to a distributor, which is passed on to the restaurant, which is then handled by a long list of workers, the last one being your server.

Bacteria and viruses are all around us, so if the food is mishandled anywhere along the way to your table, it can lead to you getting sick. Of course, no one wants to get sick, but for some vulnerable groups like pregnant women, young children and people who are immunocompromised (people undergoing chemotherapy, who have diabetes or on dialysis for example) the end results can be dire. And sometimes foodborne illness can lead to long term problems like reactive arthritis, Guillain-Barré Syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome. All the more reason to keep your food safe.

Right now, we’re coming into the more dangerous food safety season. As the weather heats up, more people are having cookouts, picnics and are traveling more. Check these tips to keep you and your family safe.

Tips for Eating at Home:

Follow the simple food safety rules: Clean, Chill, Cook, Separate. Check your steps here:

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds and sanitize counters etc. with a solution of 1 teaspoon of bleach to 1 quart of water.
  • Wash hand towels often and sanitize sponges by microwaving a wet sponge for 2 minutes. Wipe up juices from raw meats and eggs with a paper towel and follow with bleach solution or sanitizing wipe.
  • Stay informed of various food safety outbreaks from the CDC  and Food Safety News  so you can avoid food that’s been recalled.
  • Date leftovers to avoid eating them past their due date. Check out this FoodKeeper App to guide you in how long it’s safe to keep different foods.
  • Buy local to skip some processing and distribution steps

Eating Away from home

  • Check out your local Health Department’s rating of restaurants.
  • Be aware of the cleanliness of a restaurant and the servers. If hands and fingernails don’t look clean, go elsewhere! Ditto if soap is missing from the restroom.
  • If you are immunocompromised, think twice about eating out.
  • Food Trucks can be even riskier than restaurants when it comes to food safety, due to tight spaces and sometimes limited access to water and an energy source.
  • At picnics and pot lucks, beware of food that’s been at room temperature for more than 2 hours–1 hour when it’s 90℉ or above outside.
  • If a food doesn’t feel hot enough, cold enough or cooked enough, send it back!
  • If you’re traveling to a developing country, avoid raw fruits and vegetables including lettuce and fruit salads unless the fruit or veggie is peeled.


For more information:

Food Safety Mistakes to Avoid

Food Safety While Pregnant

Photo by Bimo Luki on Unsplash


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Bridget Swinney, MS RD
Bridget Swinney is a health communicator, award-winning author and well-regarded nutrition expert specializing in teaching people to embrace a healthier diet and lifestyle. In her 25 years as a registered dietitian, she has worked in public health, as a clinical...Read More
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