ROCHESTER, N.Y. –Millions of families across America are hopping on the bandwagon and heading outside for events and parties where there will be food. Lots of food.
What eaters aren’t always aware of are the microscopic dangers some foods pose – specifically meat, poultry and catfish. If these foods aren’t handled properly, people can get sick. Very sick.
That’s why the Safe Food Coalition is currently petitioning the U.S. Department of Agriculture to revise its rules and inform consumers of safe handling practices.
A foodborne illness attorney at Cellino & Barnes says thousands of people become seriously ill after eating contaminated food and many of these incidents occur during the summer.
“People are throwing parties and having cookouts and more families are out visiting restaurants in Rochester,” foodborne illness lawyer Ross Cellino said. “The warmer weather also creates ideal conditions for some bacteria and it’s not uncommon for companies or businesses to mishandle their products.”
Food suppliers are mandated by federal regulations to include a Safe Handling Label which includes the following suggestions:
- Keep refrigerated or frozen
- Keep raw meat and poultry separate from other foods.
- Wash working surfaces, utensils and hands after touching raw meat or poultry
- Cook thoroughly
- Refrigerate leftovers immediately
This label has gone unchanged for more than 20 years and throughout that period, it has often been criticized.
A study published in 1998 found that consumers couldn’t read the small type on the instructions. Researchers concluded that foodborne illnesses could be reduced by improving the label and including more detailed instructions… but nothing changed.
According to the Safe Food Coalition, the current label is not good enough and many people still become ill, even if the instructions are followed to the letter.
Stoves, grills and microwaves vary. Foods often cook faster or more slowly in different appliances. In many cases, bacteria can survive the high temperatures and make its way into your body; potentially making you very ill.
“Many cooks simply read the directions and they assume the food is cooked thoroughly,” Cellino said. “In some cases, it’s not and that can have dangerous consequences.”
The Safe Food Coalition wants safe handling labels to be updated to include recommended internal temperatures – and rest time requirements that allow bacteria to die off after cooking. The petition also asks for instruction labels on all raw fish products.
The request is backed up by years of research on cooking behaviors and lab studies that analyzed survival rates of bacteria and pathogens at specific temperatures. Food safety advocates believe more specific labels and the widespread use of thermometers would help reduce the number of foodborne illnesses.
These illnesses include:
- E. coli O157:H7
- Enterobacter sakazakii
- Hepatitis A
“Using a thermometer to verify internal temperatures of food is one of the easiest ways to avoid foodborne illnesses,” Cellino said. “Unfortunately, many cooks don’t do this and it raises the risk of undercooked food in both commercial and social settings.”
Among its suggestions, the Safe Food Coalition is calling for more specific information on safe handling labels including:
- An end-point temperature for raw foods and “rest-time” requirement
- Instructions to use a thermometer
- Handling, storage, and temperature control information
- Updated graphics featured on the www.foodsafety.gov website, instead of the graphics currently displayed
- A web address on the package for additional information on meat, poultry and catfish cooking recommendations
If you or a loved one has fallen ill due to a foodborne pathogen, the Rochester foodborne illness lawyers at Cellino & Barnes have helped many families obtain the best result possible. Contact a lawyer today for a free case evaluation.