During the current Trump administration there have already been two government shutdowns and subsequent uncertain reopenings. During these long periods, most government departments are either not functioning at all or have to make major cuts on the functions they can afford to continue. One of these departments is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or the FDA, which regulates food production and inspection in order to ensure the American population is consuming foods free of dangerous pathogens and contamination. Such an important department is often gone unnoticed throughout our daily lives but is one of the most affected during these periods. According to NBC News, the FDA is able to continue foreign food inspections because they are considered imperative, but domestic food production continues to be completely unregulated; therefore, potential dangers may exit these domestic facilities undetected.
The outbreak of E. coli in U.S.-produced romaine lettuce began before the actual shutdown, but as a result of the shutdown it became difficult to contain. As seen through the results of the outbreak, the inability of the FDA to function can cause major dangers to the American population. The E. coli virus linked to romaine lettuce infected a total of 62 people across 16 states and the District of Columbia, as reported by the CDC. Furthermore, 25 of those people were hospitalized and two of the individuals developed hemolytic uremic syndrome which is a type of kidney failure.
The foods that we need to be the most careful of are those prone to carrying foodborne illnesses and causing food poisoning. According to the CDC, these are raw foods of animal origin, which can easily be contaminated. This includes “raw or undercooked meat and poultry, raw or lightly cooked eggs, unpasteurized milk, and raw shellfish,” as well as fruits and vegetables. There are four key steps to making sure our food is safe when preparing it: Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.
Firstly, it is important to clean our hands and the surfaces on which we cook both before and after cooking. All utensils, cutting boards and countertops should also be washed with hot, soapy water. If your meal includes fruits and vegetables, it is also important to rinse under running water before eating.
Secondly, it is important to prevent cross-contamination from raw foods to other foods by keeping them separate. The CDC recommends to “use separate cutting boards and plates for raw meat, poultry and seafood,” and also keep them separately from ready-to-eat foods at all times, including during grocery shopping and in storage.
Thirdly, one of the most important steps is cooking foods until the internal temperature reaches high enough to kill all germs. Contrary to popular belief, the color and texture of food is not indicative of whether or not it is safely cooked. The only way to ensure this is through using a food thermometer. The temperature of beef, pork, veal and lamb should reach 145℉. Ground meats such as beef and pork should reach 160℉. All poultry, leftovers and casseroles should reach 165℉. Fresh ham and fin fish should reach 145℉ and fish should be cooked until the flesh is opaque.
The last step to know is how to refrigerate food properly. Refrigerators should be kept below 40℉ at all times and leftovers and perishable food should be refrigerated within two hours. When the outdoor temperature reaches above 90℉ it is important to refrigerate within one hour as food perishes more quickly in hot temperatures.
These key steps can help prevent foodborne illnesses and food poisoning. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you do get food poisoning, which usually clears up within 48 hours, it is important to let your stomach settle and stop consuming food and drink for a few hours and make sure to rest. It is also important to ease back into eating and replace lost fluids by drinking electrolytes and other fluids so that your body can build its strength back up. Overall, making sure what we consume is safe is one way to ensure our success.
By Yajaira Ramos-Ramirez, Staff Writer