Diet and exercise are synonymous with a healthy lifestyle. When coupled with routine exercise, a healthy diet is even more effective at sustaining long-term health.
But just because the foods you eat might be healthy, that doesn't always mean they're safe. Food that is contaminated can lead to illness and possibly even death. For instance, even a small bite of food that's contaminated with the botulism toxin can cost a person his or life or lead to paralysis.
While a mistake with regards to food safety can prove costly, there are ways to prevent those mistakes. The following are some food safety measures men, women and children can take to ensure their food is safe for consumption, courtesy of the United States Department of Health & Human Services.
* Always wash your hands before preparing or eating food. Germs on your hands can contaminate food. If you're preparing a meal, always wash your hands before the preparation begins and wash them again in between handling multiple foods. For example, if you are handling raw meat, clean your hands before you touch other foods you will be preparing, such as potatoes or vegetables. Wash hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds.
* Do not thaw food on the counter. Thawing food on the counter can be quite dangerous, as harmful germs multiply very rapidly at room temperature. Instead of thawing food on the counter, place food in the refrigerator, defrost it in the microwave or submerge food in a pot of cold water.
* Do not let food cool before placing it in the refrigerator. Perishable foods that are not immediately refrigerated invite illness-causing bacteria, which can grow in as little as two hours or as little as one hour if the temperature is above 90 F. Instead of leaving perishable items on the counter, refrigerate them within two hours if not immediately.
* Do not taste food to check if it is spoiled. The bacteria that causes food poisoning has no taste, so tasting food to determine if it has spoiled won't do you any good, but it can cause serious illness if the bacteria is present. If you aren't sure about a certain food, simply throw it away. To learn about safe storage times for the refrigerator and freezer, visit www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/storagetimes.html.
* Wash any plates or cutting boards that held raw meat. Raw meat as well as poultry and seafood have germs that can spread, especially if you use the same plates or cutting boards for raw meat as you do cooked meat. Thoroughly scrub any dishes that held raw meat before using them for anything else.
* Do not wash meat or poultry. Some recipes, especially those for Thanksgiving turkey, advice home chefs to wash meat or poultry before cooking. However, doing so can spread bacteria to the sink, countertops and other kitchen surfaces. Despite what a recipe suggests, never wash meat, poultry or eggs.
* Do not eat foods with uncooked eggs. Eggs should always be cooked thoroughly, as they may contain harmful bacteria, including salmonella. Foods that contain uncooked eggs, such as raw cookie dough, while a tasty treat for many people, are potentially very dangerous, exposing you to harmful bacteria that could result in serious illness.
* Marinate foods in the refrigerator. Marinating foods is very popular, especially during the barbecuing season. However, marinating foods at room temperature, when harmful germs in meat and bacteria can multiply rapidly, should be avoided at all costs. When marinating meat, poultry or seafood, always do so in the refrigerator.
* Do not use leftover marinade on cooked foods. When marinating, there is typically a significant amount of marinade left over. However tempting it may be to add a little extra flavor by reusing that marinade once the food has been cooked, doing so is very dangerous, as the germs from the raw meat, poultry or seafood can spread to the cooked food. If you simply must make use of the leftover marinade, only do so after boiling it.
More information about food safety is available at www.foodsafety.gov.