Food Safety Messages for National Health Education Week
Promoting healthy lifestyles is the key focus of health educators, as celebrated this month through National Health Education Week, October 15-19.
The Healthy People initiative advocates food safety as a component of health education, noting, “Safer food promises healthier and longer lives, less costly health care, and a more resilient food industry.” They say, “Foodborne illnesses are a burden on public health.” It’s no surprise they point out, “It’s preventable.”
Healthy People 2020 provides a comprehensive set of 10-year, national goals and objectives for improving the health of all Americans.
Taking charge of food safety
Health professionals can encourage clients to take charge of food safety in their personal lives. Here are some of the food safety habits outlined in Healthy People 2020:
- Buy food from stores that look and smell clean.
- Don’t buy food past “sell by,” “use by,” or other expiration dates.
- Wash your hands often with warm water and soap – especially before and after touching food.
- Make sure food is cooked to a safe temperature.
- Keep raw meat and seafood away from cooked and ready-to-eat food.
- Keep cold foods cold. Keep hot foods hot.
Cooking food to destroy pathogens
More about habit #4 above: Federal data cites cooking food to safe temperatures as an ongoing concern for foodborne illness prevention. A public health survey tool, part of the Health Indicators Warehouse, includes specific reference to raw eggs. Questions they ask about egg safety include: How often do you use raw eggs for mayonnaise, mousse, Caesar salad dressing, homemade frosting, shakes, Hollandaise sauce, homemade ice cream, or raw cookie batter?
Undercooking food can lead to illness by allowing survival of foodborne illness pathogens. For eggs, that’s Salmonella enteritis, and raw or undercooked eggs are the food source for 4 out of 5 Salmonella enteritis cases.
There is a solution—pasteurized eggs. For each high-risk recipe listed above, you can find safe alternatives in the SafeEggs recipe center. Sometimes it’s easier to change the food product than to ask your client to forgo food preferences.
For more healthy lifestyle resources, see the Healthy People topic index. What are your favorite food safety messages?