Bureau of Epidemiology
Bureau of Epidemiology September 2000 Utah Department of Health
inside... National Food Safety Education Month
Quarterly Report
Monthly Morbidity Summary

National Food Safety Education Month

September is National Food Safety Education Month where the importance of safe food handling and preparation in both home and commercial kitchens is highlighted. This year’s theme, “Be Smart. Keep Foods Apart. Don’t Cross-Contaminate”, focuses on the transfer of harmful bacteria to food from other foods, cutting boards, utensils, etc. This is especially true when handling raw meat, poultry, and seafood.

Most people have a fairly good understanding of food safely knowledge, however there is still confusion about cross-contamination. According to a 1998 FDA/USDA consumer food survey: 21% of main meal cooks do not wash their cutting boards after cutting raw meat; 25% of main meal cooks do not wash their hands after handling raw meat and fish and two-thirds do not wash their hands after handling raw eggs; and 61% of people who use a cloth or sponge to wipe kitchen counters change them less than seven times per week (Food safety experts advise using paper towels to wipe kitchen surfaces, or if clothes or sponges are used, washing them often in the washing machine hot cycle).

In an effort to help explain why foodborne illness is such a problem in homes, Janet Anderson, a nutritionist, and other researchers from Utah State University, conducted a study in which consumer food handling and preparation behaviors were directly observed. One-hundred families agreed to be filmed preparing what the researchers called “market research” on how people cooked a special recipe, hoping to see real-life food preparation. To conduct A Camera’s View of consumer Food Handling and Preparation Practices, ingredients were bought for salad and one of the following: Mexican meat loaf; marinated halibut; or herb-breaded chicken breasts with mustard sauce. All the recipes were designed to test food safety procedures. Once the groceries were delivered, the cameras began filming the cooks putting the food away. Some of the noted observations were improper storage of meat on the top shelf of the refrigerator, using the same towel to wipe raw meat juice and dry their hands, not washing lettuce for salad, undercooking meatloaf, tasting the marinade with raw fish in it, and the worst one - fixing an infants bottle after handling raw chicken and rinsing a baby bottle with only water after it fell into raw eggs. In comparing some of their findings to those of the FDA/USDA survey, the following was identified:

Handwashing and Cleaning:

  • Handwashing was inadequate. The average handwashing attempt was 4.4 seconds, without soap. Only, thirty-four percent (34%) of handwashing attempts were with soap. Two subjects did not wash their hands during the entire cooking process. Thirty-two subjects never used soap to wash their hands.

  • For hand drying after handwashing, the majority (68%) of subjects used a cloth towel.

  • Seventy percent (70%) of subjects attempted to clean preparation surfaces. To assess the adequacy of surface cleaning attempts, cases in which raw meat directly contacted a kitchen surface were identified. Of the 228 cases that occurred, only 29% of the surfaces were rated as adequately cleaned by the coders.

Separating: Cross Contamination

  • Most of the subjects (76%) stored their meat on the middle or top shelf of the refrigerator. Raw meat should be stored on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so that it does not drip onto other foods.

  • Cross-contamination of raw meat and egg to ready-to-eat food (salad) was a problem. Only two subjects did not cross-contaminate between meat and ready to eat foods because of proper cleaning and sanitizing of hands and surfaces.

Cooking:

  • Many subjects undercooked their meat entrée. Sixty-one (61%) of subjects undercooked the chicken, and 46% of subjects undercooked the meatloaf.

  • Nearly all of the subjects attempted to check doneness of the meat entrée. Seventy-six percent (76%) of subjects used either a knife or a utensil to visually check doneness of the meat entrée. Thirteen percent (13%) of subjects looked at the meat entrée to determine doneness. Five percent (5%) of subjects used a food thermometer. Five percent (5%) of subjects tasted the meat entrée to determine if it was thoroughly cooked.

Chilling:

  • A third (36%) of refrigerator temperatures were greater than 40(F.

  • The majority (77%) of subjects marinated the fish on the counter. Food should be marinated in the refrigerator.

  • Leftovers were not stored properly. They were not divided into smaller portions for refrigeration and many of the subjects reported cooling food on the counter before putting it into the refrigerator.

  • Thirty percent (n=30) of the refrigerators were overcrowded, which does not allow for circulation of air and proper cooling of food.

As part of this year’s FDA/USDA Food Safety Education campaign to “Be Smart. Keep Foods Apart. Don’t Cross-Contaminate”, the following steps are recommended:

When Shopping:

  • Separate raw meat, poultry, and seafood from other foods in your grocery-shopping cart. Place these foods in plastic bags to prevent their juices from dripping onto other foods. It is also best to separate these foods from other foods at check out and in your grocery bags.

When Refrigerating Food:

  • Place raw meat, poultry, and seafood in containers or sealed plastic bags to prevent their juices from dripping onto other foods. Raw juices often contain harmful bacteria.

  • Store eggs in their original carton and refrigerate as soon as possible.

When Preparing Food:

  • Wash hands and surfaces often. Harmful bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, and counter tops. To prevent this:

  • Wash hands with soap and water before and after handling food, and after using the bathroom, changing diapers; or handling pets.

  • Use hot, soapy water and paper towels or clean cloths to wipe up kitchen surfaces or spills. Wash cloths often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.

  • Wash cutting boards, dishes, and counter tops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next item.  (A solution of 1 teaspoon bleach in 1 quart of water may be used to sanitize surfaces and utensils.)

Cutting Boards:

  • Always use a clean cutting board.

  • If possible, use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.

  • Once cutting boards become excessively worn or develop hard-to-clean grooves, they should be replaced.

Marinating Food:

  • Always marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter.

  • Sauce that is used to marinate raw meat, poultry, or seafood should not be used on cooked foods, unless it is boiled just before using.

When Serving Food:

  • Always use a clean plate.

  • Never place cooked food back on the same plate or cutting board that previously held raw food.

When Storing Leftovers:

  • Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within 2 hours or sooner in clean, shallow, covered containers to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying.

For more information on Food Safety, please contact:

USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline: 1 800 535-4555
FSIS Web site: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/
U.S. FDA Food Information Line: 1 888 SAFEFOOD
FDA Web site: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/
Food Safety Education: http://www.foodsafety.gov/

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Quarterly Report of Diseases of Low Frequency Year to Date,
January - September 2000
(including a comparison for same time period 1996 - 1999)

DISEASES

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

5 YEAR

J - S

J - S

J - S

J - S

J - S

AVERAGE

Amebiasis

4

5

7

8

8

6.4

Aseptic Meningitis

20

50

122

16

32

48.0

Botulism, Foodborne

0

0

0

0

0

0.0

Botulism, Infant

2

2

1

3

6

2.8

Coccidioidomycosis

2

12

10

6

11

8.2

Colorado Tick Fever

4

3

2

3

2

2.8

Encephalitis

1

2

3

2

2

2.0

Kawasaki Syndrome

7

5

10

0

0

4.4

Legionellosis

2

9

18

13

6

9.6

Listeriosis

2

0

0

5

4

2.2

Lyme Disease

1

1

0

2

1

1.0

Malaria, Imported

4

3

1

4

4

3.2

Mumps

2

6

4

3

4

3.8

Plague

0

0

0

0

1

0.2

Psittacosis

0

0

0

0

0

0.0

Relapsing Fever

2

0

1

0

0

0.6

Reye Syndrome

0

0

0

0

0

0.0

Rocky Mtn Spotted Fever

0

1

1

2

1

1.0

Rubella

0

0

2

1

0

0.6

Syphilis, Primary & Secondary

2

5

3

2

1

2.6

Toxic Shock Syndrome

0

3

1

1

2

1.4

Tularemia

3

3

2

4

2

2.8

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Utah Department of Health, Bureau of Epidemiology
Monthly Morbidity Summary
September 2000 - Provisional Data

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The Epidemiology Newsletter is published monthly by the Utah Department of Health, Division of Epidemiology and Laboratory Services, Bureau of Epidemiology, to disseminate epidemiologic information to the health care professional and the general public.

Send comments to:  The Bureau of Epidemiology, Box 142104, Salt Lake City, UT 84114-2104, or call (801) 538-6191

Approval 8000008:  Appropriation 3705

Rod Betit, Executive Director, Utah Department of Health
Charles Brokopp, Dr.P.H., Division of Epidemiology and Laboratory Services
Craig R Nichols, MPA, Editor, State Epidemiologist, Director Bureau of Epidemiology
Gerrie Dowdle, MSPH, Managing Editor
Connie Dean, Production Assistant

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