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Claudann Jones Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Claudann Jones Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Whether putting food in the refrigerator, the freezer or the cupboard, you have plenty of opportunities to prevent foodborne illnesses. The goal is to keep yourself and others from being sickened by microorganisms such as Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and C. botulinum, which causes botulism. Keeping foods chilled at proper temperatures is one of the best ways to prevent or slow the growth of these bacteria.

These food storage tips can help you steer clear of foodborne illnesses.

• Refrigerate or freeze perishables right away.

• Keep your appliances at the proper temperatures. Keep the refrigerator temperature at or below 40 degrees. The freezer temperature should be zero degrees. Check temperatures periodically and use appliance thermometers.

• Check storage directions on labels.

• Use ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible. Refrigerated ready-to-eat foods such as luncheon meats should be used as soon as possible. The longer they’re stored in the refrigerator, the more chance Listeria, a bacterium that causes foodborne illness, can grow, especially if the refrigerator temperature is above 40 degrees.

• Be alert for spoiled food. Anything that looks or smells suspicious should be thrown out.

• Be aware that food can make you very sick even when it doesn’t look, smell or taste spoiled. That’s because foodborne illnesses are caused by pathogenic bacteria, which are different from the spoilage bacteria that make foods “go bad.”

Many pathogenic organisms are present in raw or undercooked meat, poultry, seafood, milk and eggs; unclean water; and on fruits and vegetables.

• Following these recommended food handling practices will further reduce your risk of getting sick — clean your hands, surfaces and produce, separate raw foods from ready-to-eat foods and cook to safe temperatures.

For more information, contact me, Claudann Jones, Smith County Extension Agent for Family and Community Health, at 903-590-2980 or email at cmjones@ag.tamu.edu. Like our Facebook page: Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Smith County. Stay well and stay safe.