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Posted on: October 25, 2022

September is Food Safety Awareness Month



Whether you call it “foodborne illness” or “food poisoning” illnesses often occur when bacteria, viruses, or other microorganisms grow on food that is not handled, stored, or prepared properly. September is Food Safety Awareness Month and McLean County Health Department (MCHD) hopes to spread awareness through public education.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more than 250 different foodborne diseases, with most being caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Some of the most common foodborne pathogens include Norovirus, Salmonella, Clostridium Perfringens, Campylobacter, and Staphylococcus Aureus (Staph).

“Many people believe that the last thing they ate is what made them sick. But in reality, the onset of symptoms varies depending on the pathogen,” said Linda Foutch, Environmental Health Program Supervisor. “For example, Staph symptoms begin 1-8 hours after ingestion, whereas Salmonella symptoms can begin 18-36 hours after ingestion.”

According to MCHD Environmental Health Division, two very common reasons for foodborne illnesses are: not properly washing hands after going to the bathroom; and handling unclean cell phones or tablets.

There are four basic steps everyone should follow when it comes to handling food: (1) Clean; (2) Separate; (3) Cook; (4) and Chill.


  • Wash hands for 20 seconds. Wash often.
  • Clean before, during, and after: utensils, cutting boards, countertops. Use hot, soapy water.
  • Clean all surfaces frequently, especially after handling raw meat, poultry, or seafood (refrigerator or cabinet handles, spice containers, sink handles and faucets, recipe books, cell phones or tablets, etc.).
  • Switch out clean washcloths & towels often.
  • Clean spills from refrigerators that can also harbor harmful pathogens.



Cross-contamination often occurs when bacteria or other microorganisms are unintentionally transferred from one food substance or object to another.

  • Raw meats, raw seafood, and raw eggs can be a big source of germs. Keep them separated from cooked foods and raw fruits and veggies.
  • Wrap well and store separately – use the lowest refrigerator shelves for foods with juices that can spill.
  • Use separate cutting boards, storage/transfer plates, and utensils for these raw proteins.


3. COOK:

  • All poultry (chicken, hens, turkey) – cooked to 165°F
  • Ground beef or pork – 155°F
  • Whole cuts of beef, lamb, pork, and raw ham – 145°F
  • Fish and seafood – 145°F


  • Keep all your food as cold as possible (at 41°F or less) until ready to serve.
    1. Once prepared foods (salads, dips, salsas) get above 41°F, they are in “the danger zone.” Food that has been in the danger zone for 3 hours or more should be thrown out.
    2. A food thermometer inserted into cold or hot food will give an accurate food temperature reading within a few degrees of accuracy.  

For more information and links, visit the MCHD website at 

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