AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – The Alabama Cooperative Extension System has the privilege of assisting Alabamians through a range of topics from agriculture to home life. The eight topics highlighted on the Extension website provide readily available, research-based information to farmers, families, businesspeople and gardeners across the state.
The food safety sector ensures Alabamians have a safe food supply from seed to table. Alabama Extension Food Safety and Quality Regional Agents Janet Johnson and Janice Hall help educate those working in the food service industry in the state of the importance of safe food sources.
What is Food Safety?
Food safety is the education and information individuals need to consume healthy food and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that at least 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die each year from a food-borne illness,” Hall said.
Food-borne illnesses are otherwise known as “food poisoning” to most individuals. This occurs when food is consumed that is contaminated with harmful pathogens: bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi.
“Preventing these illnesses is what makes food safety important,” Hall said.
Therefore, the Alabama Extension food safety team works to provide education to restaurant employees, farmers, schools, youth and adults.
“As an Extension educator, it is my goal to help clients understand the information to protect themselves,” Johnson said.
Practicing Food Safety
There are four steps to food safety that consumers can do to protect themselves and others from getting sick; clean, separate, cook and chill. According to Hall, these four simple steps serve as the basis of a safe food supply.
- Clean. Wash your hands and surfaces often.
- Separate. Don’t cross contaminate by transferring pathogens from food to food, yourself to food, or food to surfaces. Keep foods that are ready to eat and uncooked foods separate.
- Cook. Always cook food to the proper internal temperature. The best way to ensure the food is ready is to use a thermometer.
- Chill. Cool foods properly. Don’t leave food on the counter for hours to cool. This will allow bacteria will grow to numbers that can make you sick. Also, don’t put food in the refrigerator to cool. This can heat up the refrigerator to dangerous temperatures for other foods.
Johnson and Hall found their passion through connecting with Alabamians over a healthy lifestyle.
“Food safety is special because it is that step in the food process from farm to table that ensures people are healthy and safe,” Hall said.
Connecting communities through health and safety is what food safety is all about.