Welcome to USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service Food Safety at home
podcast series. These podcasts were designed with you in mind - the consumer - who
purchases and prepares meat, poultry and processed egg products
for your family and friends.
Each episode will bring you a different food safety topic ranging from safe storage, handling,
and preparation of meat, poultry and processed egg products to the importance of keeping
foods safe during a power outage.
So sit back, turn up the volume and listen in.
Welcome to “Food Safety at Home.” This is Gertie Hurley with the Food Safety and
Inspection Service. I am your host for this segment. Joining me here today is Diane
Van from the USDA Meat and Poultry Hot¬line. Food safety is important for everyone but
especially important for those at risk. Diane will give us some practical information
to help reduce the risk of foodborne illness for those who are at risk.
Welcome to the show, Diane.
Thank you Gertie. I am pleased to be here.
Diane "Who exactly are the at risk?"
Gertie, everyone is at risk for contracting a foodborne illness. However, the very
young, older adults, pregnant women and their unborn, and those with a weakened or
compromised immune system due to illness and/or medication are at greater risk for
experiencing a more serious illness or even death should they contract a foodborne
How are they more vulnerable?
Young children have an underdeveloped immune system; when a woman becomes pregnant her
body undergoes hormonal changes causing her immune system to be weakened; due to the
aging process, older adults often experience decreasing function of their systems,
including the immune system; and then there are people who have conditions and/or take
medications that weaken their immune system.
Why is food safety so important for the at-risk?
Foodborne illness is preventable. While people with normal functioning immune systems
may experience diarrhea and other symptoms for a day or so, at-risk populations may
experience a lengthier illness resulting in hospitalization or even death. For
example, young children who consume a product contaminated with E. coli O157
may experience hemolytic uremic syndrome that can cause kidney failure or even death;
pregnant women who consume a product contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes
may experience a stillbirth or have a child born with severe medical complications.
What are the major pathogens and some associated foods that can cause foodborne
Major pathogens associated with foodborne illness include for example E. coli,
Listeria monocytogenes, Campylobacter, Salmonella,
Noroviruses, Cryptosporidium, Toxoplasma gondii, and Vibrio
What are the symptoms associated with these pathogens?
Flu-like symptoms are associated with foodborne illness, such as nausea, vomiting,
diarrhea, and fever. With some pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes, one
may experience a stiff neck; with E. coli and Campylobacter, one may
experience bloody diarrhea. Because the symptoms may often mimic the flu, if one
suspects that they have contracted a foodborne illness they should consult their
health care provider or physician for guidance.
Also, it is important to note that the onset of foodborne illness may take from a few
hours to several weeks. It is important for the at-risk and those who provide their
care to be aware of safe food handling practices and the symptoms associated with
Can you give us some examples of the foods that are most risky?
Yes, uncooked or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood products and their
juices, contaminated fresh fruits and vegetables, contaminated hot dogs, luncheon
meats, soft cheeses and unpasteurized dairy products, smoked seafood and salads made
in the store such as ham salad, chicken salad, or seafood salad.
What four things would you want the at-risk person or their caretaker to remember in
order to reduce their chance of getting foodborne illness?
There are four principles that we promote to help consumers reduce their risk of
contracting a foodborne illness, and they are the messages of Clean,
Separate, Cook and Chill. Be sure to wash your hands before and
after eating, handling or preparing food and keeping all surfaces clean. Keep raw or
uncooked meat, poultry, and processed egg products and their juices away from
ready-to-eat foods and fresh fruits and vegetables to prevent cross-contamination.
Use a food thermometer to make sure that your meat, poultry, or processed egg product
has reached a safe minimum internal temperature; for example, poultry should be cooked
to 165 ˚F, egg dishes and ground beef should be cooked to at least 160 ˚F, and
steaks/roasts should be cooked to 145 ˚F.
Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Chill leftovers and takeout foods within 2
hours (within 1 hour in temperatures 90 ˚F or above). Use an appliance thermometer to
check the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer. The temperature of your
refrigerator should be 40 ˚F or lower and your freezer 0 ˚F or lower. To learn more
about the four core food safety messages Clean, Separate, Cook
and Chill, visit befoodsafe.gov. That’s
That's it for this week. We have been talking to Diane Van from the USDA Meat and
Poultry Hotline Thank you, Diane. I am Gertie Hurley and I’d like to thank you for
joining us for this episode of "Food Safety at Home" and remember, “Be Food Safe.”
Well, that’s all for this time. Thanks for joining us today for another episode of
food safety at home!
For answers to your food safety questions call USDA's toll-free meat and poultry hotline
at 1-888-mphotline. That’s 1-888-674-6854.
You can also get answers to food safety questions online from our virtual representative
"ask karen" at www.askkaren.gov .
Let us know what you think of this podcast by sending your comments to
Thanks for tuning in.