Meigs Health Matters

By Steve Swatzel - Contributing Columnist

The Meigs County Health Department’s Food Safety program conducts a board range of activities to minimize food-borne illnesses.

Our primary activity is the licensure and inspection of all food service operations and retail food establishments. The department also investigates possible food-borne illnesses caused by a variety of bacteria tainted food.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports the American food supply is among the safest in the world, but there are still about 48 million cases of food-borne illness annually — the equivalent of sickening 1 in 6 Americans each year. And each year these illnesses result in an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.

The health department may only be in food service one to four times a year, depending on the level of food handling. That is why the health department tries to educate the operators and the public on food safety at every opportunity. Safe food handling is not only for businesses, but also for your home. Please review a few food safety tips at the end of this article to keep your food safe.

Most people have the understanding that the health department routinely inspects and licenses restaurants; however, there are many more types of food services and/or retail food stores that the Health Department regulates. Grocery stores, convenient stores, gas stations, bars, schools, daycare facilities, mobile food operations are just some of the food service operations that the health department inspects.

The Meigs County Health Department is usually at all county’s festivals and events checking out the mobile food services and any temporary food operations, which are one-time operations, usually by nonprofit organizations. In 2015, there were 144 licensed food services and establishments operating in the county. The health department conducted more than 300 inspections during the year.

According to these FDA recommendations, following these four steps of food safety will help keep you and your family safe.

1. Always wash your food, hands, counters and cooking tools.

  • Wash hands in warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds. Do this before and after touching food.
  • Wash your cutting boards, dishes, forks, spoons, knives and counter tops with hot soapy water. Do this after working with each food item.
  • Rinse fruits and veggies.
  • Clean the lids on canned goods before opening.

2. Keep raw foods to themselves

  • Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs away from other foods.
  • Do this in your shopping cart, bags, and fridge.
  • Do not reuse marinades used on raw foods unless you bring them to a boil first.
  • Use a special cutting board or plate for raw foods only.

3. Foods need to get hot and stay hot. Heat kills germs.

  • Cook to safe temperatures:
  • Beef, Pork, Lamb 145 degree F
  • Fish 145 degrees F
  • Ground Beef, Pork, Lamb 160 degrees F; Turkey, Chicken, Duck 165 degrees F
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure that food is done. You can’t always tell by looking.

4. Put food in the fridge right away.

  • Two-Hour Rule: Put foods in the fridge or freezer within 2 hours after cooking or buying from the store. Do this within 1 hour if it is 90 degrees or hotter outside.
  • Never thaw food by simply taking it out of the fridge.
  • Thaw food.
  • In the fridge.
  • Under cold water.
  • In the microwave.
  • Marinate foods in the fridge.

By Steve Swatzel

Contributing Columnist

Steve Swatzel is a registered sanitarian at the Meigs County Health Department.

Steve Swatzel is a registered sanitarian at the Meigs County Health Department.