I would like to believe that most people make every effort to avoid perpetrating food-poisoning on themselves or anyone else. But I know I am wrong. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates that 48 million people get sick from a food-borne illness every year in the U.S. and 3,000 die.

With Memorial Day weekend fast approaching, maybe it is time for a refresher course on what to do to prevent this unbelievably unpleasant malady. The USDA's (U.S. Department of Agriculture) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) breaks down their advice into "4 Steps for Food Safety" year round and for special days like Memorial Day.

  • Clean- -Wash your hands, utensils, and cutting boards, before and after contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.
  • Separate - - Use one cutting board for raw meat, poultry, and seafood and another for salads and ready-to-eat foods. Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood and their juices apart from other food in your grocery cart and when you're storing them in the fridge to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Cook - -Always use a thermometer, you cannot tell if food is done just by looking at it. Bring leftovers up to a safe temperature, uniformly, to avoid cold spots where bacteria can thrive.
  • Chill - - Chilling food properly is one of the best ways to avoid food poisoning. Your fridge should be set to 40 degrees or below. You should get leftovers of any kind into the fridge within 2 hours. Always thaw frozen meat, poultry and seafood in the fridge, not on your counter.

Additionally, the FSIS suggests that you:

  • Bring hand sanitizer, soap, and paper towels if you don't have running water where you are spending time this holiday weekend.
  • Bring two coolers filled with ice. One for beverages and one for perishable foods.
  • Bring a food thermometer.
  • Get leftovers into your cooler within 2 hours.

Taking these measures should lower your chances of foodborne illness, but take it from me, they cannot prevent it completely. That is the nature of our food industry. As someone who has had serious food-poisoning over 5 times and been hospitalized for it once, due to eating an unknown to me, recalled food product, I know what I'm talking about.

For more great information year round, (including food product recalls) see the USDA/Food Safety and Inspection Service and Be Food Safe online.

Sources: CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) USDA/Food Safety and Inspection Service and Be Food Safe