Every year, 1 in 6 Americans get sick from food-borne illnesses. These illnesses, also called food poisoning, also send about 128,000 people to the hospital, resulting in about 3,000 deaths nationwide each year.

Bottom line ~ food-borne illness can be more serious than we think.

Causes of food poisoning are mostly microorganisms, like viruses or bacteria. And although many of these microorganisms cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted, they can cause an illness that ranges from mild to life-threatening.

Food-borne illnesses are mostly picked up in areas where food is prepared as well as eaten, such as restaurants, schools and even our homes. Food-borne illnesses can also be acquired from contaminated drinking water, and water found in swimming pools. Microorganisms can even be passed from person to person, which is why proper hand washing is extremely important!!!

Food-borne illnesses can have a variety of symptoms, but the most common symptoms are nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. Always check with your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

To keep your kitchen clean, and those pesky unwanted microorganisms at bay, follow these great tips:

Wash hands properly and often. If your hands are not clean, chances are you’re spreading bacteria and virus germs all over your food, your utensils, the kitchen counter tops, and even your family!

To properly wash your hands, scrub your hands with soap and warm water for twenty seconds, making sure to get under the nails and in between the fingers.

When preparing to cook, pre-clean your work area with an all-purpose cleaner. THEN, spray disinfectant on the surface, letting the disinfectant soak for a few minutes. After about five minutes, wipe the surfaces with a microfiber cloth. (For cutting boards, use natural anti-microbials like lemon juice, white vinegar or tea tree oil.) It’s very important that you clean the surface before disinfecting it.

After each use, wash all surfaces, including kitchen counter tops, cutting boards, and even utensils. Be sure to use warm to hot soapy water. Don’t forget to wipe down other surfaces and areas that have been touched in the kitchen, such as drink dispensers on the fridge door, light switches, spatulas, and all handles, controls and faucets.

Wash all fruits and vegetables, before and after peeling them.

Do your best to separate raw meat, eggs, seafood, and poultry from the rest of your foods in the fridge. When cooking or preparing meals, always use separate utensils, plates, and especially cutting boards for all uncooked produce and uncooked meat, seafood, eggs and poultry.

Learn to love your thermometer! When cooking foods, it is important to cook food to the proper temperature, and for the proper amount of time. This way, the food is heated up enough to kill the harmful viruses and bacteria that could potentially cause illness. Use a food thermometer be sure when food has reached its safe minimum cooking temperature. For example, when cooking, all poultry should be cooked to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, and 160 degrees Fahrenheit for ground meats. Microwave foods thoroughly to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

At meal times, when food is being served and eaten, keep the food hot, at about 140 degrees Fahrenheit or greater.

After meals, refrigerate leftover food quickly. Illness-causing bacteria and viruses can grow in many foods within two hours unless you refrigerate them. During the hot summer weather, it only takes one hour for illness-causing bacteria and viruses to grow in foods.

Make sure you marinate or thaw foods in the fridge and not in the kitchen sink or on the kitchen counter.

Refrigerate all perishable products as soon as possible after grocery shopping. Learn the “two-hour rule,” which states that perishable foods should not be left at room temperature longer than two hours. Harmful bacteria have the tendency to multiply in the danger zone, which is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. When temperatures are above 90° F, as they often are in cars that have been parked in the sun, modify that rule to one hour.

If you are traveling over one hour with groceries in your car, use an ice chest or cooler to keep frozen and perishable foods cold.

Where the weather is warm and the air conditioner is being used in the car, keep your groceries in the passenger compartment, not the trunk.

With the holidays approaching, proper cleaning and disinfection can help food-borne illness from becoming the uninvited guest that spoils your celebration! Educating yourself on how to properly safeguard your home and family against food-borne illnesses is one of the best things you can do to prevent any food-borne illness from taking over!

Show this blog and infographic to your family – where food-borne illness is concerned, knowledge is power!

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