Taking a Closer Look at the 2 Most Common Foodborne Illnesses

Top 5 Risk Factors for Foodborne Illness

Suzanne Krippel


By Suzanne Krippel

Program Manager for the Food Protection Unit at the Cuyahoga County Board of Health

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) routinely analyze disease outbreaks to find commonalities and determine appropriate prevention strategies. This information serves as a valuable resource to sanitarians all over the world as it helps us to pinpoint sources of contamination. It has also helped to determine the 5 most common risk factors for foodborne illness, which are detailed below.

  1. Purchasing food from unsafe sources
    Always purchase food from approved suppliers where inspections control the safety of the foods you eat. One exception is raw produce, which can be purchased from any supplier. Be sure to thoroughly rinse and scrub produce prior to consumption in order to remove dirt and pathogens.

  2. Failing to cook food thoroughly
    Always use a calibrated instant-read thermometer (dial reads 0-220°F) to ensure food safety. When in doubt, cook foods to an internal cooking temperature of 165°F in the thickest part of the food for a minimum of 15 seconds. Remember the oven temperature does not ensure the interior cooking temperature of the thick foods. Always probe the food to ensure it is completely cooked throughout.

  3. Improper holding temperatures of food
    Always keep hot food HOT (135°F or higher) and cold foods COLD (41°F or lower) to stop the growth of disease-forming microorganisms (pathogens).

  4. Poor personal hygiene
    Always clean hands thoroughly using warm, soapy water. Rinse hands and then dry them with a paper towel. Never wipe dirty hands on aprons or soiled rags as you could re-contaminate them. Either bathe or shower daily and keep hair clean and restrained to prevent food contamination.

  5. Unsanitary equipment or surfaces
    Always wash, rinse and sanitize equipment, utensils and surfaces where food will be prepared or stored to eliminate pathogens. Only use chemicals approved for use by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for food contact. Either dilute them to the correct concentrations using a test kit or buy pre-mixed solutions.

Effectively managing the risk factors associated with foodborne illness is a priority for all of us. Understanding these five risk factors can help you to build a solid foundation for your food safety program.

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