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K-State Research and Extension
123 Umberger Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506-3401

August 25, 2020

September is Food Safety Education Month

Submitted by Pat Melgares

It is certainly a good thing, Karen Blakeslee says, that September is widely known as Food Safety Education month. But, says the longtime Kansas State University food safety specialist, knowing a little something about protecting yourself from foodborne illness is important all the time.

“We eat food every day,” said Blakeslee, who also is the coordinator of the university’s Rapid Response Center for Food Science. “So, keeping food safe is a daily event, too. Using basic, safe food handling practices can eliminate many opportunities for foodborne illness.”

In September and every month, Blakeslee preaches the virtues of food safety’s four core principles:

* Clean. Wash hands and keep cooking surfaces clean.
* Cook. Use a food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature, and to keep hot foods hot.
* Chill. Put leftovers in the refrigerator promptly and keep cold foods cold.
* Separate. When preparing and serving meals, keep raw foods away from cooked and ready-to-eat foods.

She added that good hygiene – always a food safety tenet – has come into greater light during the coronavirus pandemic, especially the importance of washing your hands. “Handwashing is your primary defense against spreading disease,” Blakeslee said, “not only for food safety, but overall health. Always wash your hands before, during and after handling any food.”

She notes information from Oregon State University that introduces the idea of high speed hand washing. The concept is intended to encourage school children or other large groups of people to take time to wash their hands.

Standing in line, the first person wets their hands and squirts them with soap. Then, they move to the back of the line to scrub hands while the others take their turn getting soap and water on their own hands.

By the time the first person reaches the front of the line again, they’re ready to rinse off the soap and dry their hands.

“We know that time is precious for everyone, especially in schools,” she said. “High speed hand washing can save time, keep the kids moving and most importantly get their hands washed. It also saves water, energy and ultimately helps prevent the spread of disease.”

Blakeslee said all food safety steps contribute to keeping meals safe.

“Do your part,” she said. “Not only for yourself, but for the health of your family and friends to prevent foodborne illness.”

More food safety tips are available from local extension offices in Kansas, or online from the K-State Rapid Response Center.