June 7 is World Food Safety Day! According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the United Nations created the day to raise awareness of the risks of foodborne illnesses from contaminated food or water. Foodborne illness (or food poisoning) impacts global health with over 200 diseases that have a direct link to eating food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances. Each year, 600 million people worldwide get sick from foodborne infections leading to 420,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. Within the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates there are 48 million cases of foodborne illnesses and 3,000 deaths each year.
Foodborne illness impacts millions of people, but it can be prevented by following safe food handling steps in your own home. Food safety is especially important for people living with kidney disease since your kidneys do not work as well as they should, and you may have a weakened immune system as a result. This is especially true if you are living with a kidney transplant because the immunosuppressant, or antirejection, medicines you take actively work to suppress your immune system, so your body does not reject your new kidney, leaving you especially vulnerable to infections. A weakened immune system makes it harder for your body to fight off infections, which can lead to more serious, and sometimes deadly, effects of foodborne illness. Here are some tips for how to handle food safely and protect against foodborne illness from the American Kidney Fund's (AKF) Kidney Kitchen® collaborators, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS):
- Clean – Start with clean hands, utensils and surfaces. Cleaning is not just important at the start of food preparation. Be sure you also wash them throughout and after food preparation to ensure bacteria do not spread.
- Separate – Keep raw meat and poultry separate from cooked foods or other foods that will not be cooked later in the process.
- Cook – Always cook your food to a safe minimum internal temperature, which you should measure with a food thermometer. This will ensure any harmful bacteria in your food has been killed before you eat it.
- Chill – Keep perishable foods at a safe temperature: below 40°F. Follow the two-hour rule and do not leave perishable foods at room temperature for more than two hours (or one hour if the food is sitting in temperatures above 90°F). Plan to use or freeze leftovers within four days of when you first cooked them. When you do eat leftovers, reheat them to 165°F.
Find more food safety tips specifically for those living with kidney diseaseon Kidney Kitchen and additional information for handling food safely on the USDA FSIS's website.
If you have additional food safety questions, you can also call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854), email MPHotline@usda.gov or chat live at ask.usda.gov from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.