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Yes To The Salad, No To The Germs Please!

By Ashley Ivey

Have you ever been HANGRY? So hungry that somewhere inside, you were angry and needed
something, ANYTHING, to eat immediately? That is exactly how I felt when I arrived at this fast-casual
restaurant. This restaurant had salad options with a variety of vegetable and meat ingredients that can be
added to the delicious salad bowl.

I eagerly approached the restaurant representative and gave her some
of the first base ingredients I wanted to add to my salad. Greens, spinach, a little rice, and lentils. I
excitedly went to the next station where I added sauteed vegetables and chicken. The smell of
deliciousness was in the air! I proceeded to the next station, which was my favorite. This one had
diced tomatoes, hummus, avocado, pickled onions, and many other unique choices. I gave the
representative the next ingredients that I wanted to add to my bowl. She used a small spoon to add the
small ingredients and then used a big spoon to add a large portion of hummus to the top of the salad
bowl.

When she was adding the hummus, some of it dripped into the metal containers that were holding
the beans and diced tomatoes and onto those items. Quickly, and without hesitation, she reached into the
bean and tomato containers and picked out the hummus with her bare hands. She had hummus
stuck on her fingers and flung it off in a bowl behind her. She then proceeded to ask me what type of
sauce I wanted on the top of the salad. Slightly mortified, I said “ranch”. I had been to this restaurant
before, so I knew that they didn’t have ranch dressing, but I had a tough time
processing what I just saw. I looked at the representative and said that no dressing was necessary. I paid
for the meal and promptly threw it out in one of the outdoor trash cans. I wasn’t hungry or hangry
anymore. I was convinced I had just dodged a foodborne illness.


My story of cross-contamination and the neglect of the proper handling of ready-to-eat foods is not
unique. Food safety is a major public health concern that affects the health of our community. Cross-contamination, improper handling of ready-to-eat foods, and uncleanliness are the causes of millions of cases of
food poisoning and foodborne illness.


Every year, 48 million illnesses in the United States are caused by foodborne illnesses (Foodborne Germs and
Illnesses, 2020). Foodborne illness also accounts for 3,000 deaths in the United States per year
(Foodborne Germs and Illnesses, 2020). Unfortunately, this preventable problem is very common and
can cause a person to get seriously ill or even die. Restaurant workers handle a lot of food daily and
must be continually trained and monitored to ensure proper food handling. However, foodborne illness is
not isolated to just restaurants! This problem affects us all, whether we eat in restaurants or eat at home.


In your home, foodborne illness can occur if the food preparer does not properly wash their hands before
and during the food preparation process and does not keep certain foods (for example, raw meats) away from ready-
to-eat foods like salads. Foodborne illness can also occur in your home if foods are not kept out of the food
temperature “danger zone” of 40° F – 140°F (Foodborne Illness, n.d). The “danger zone” is the food
temperature where bacteria grow the fastest (Foodborne Illness, n.d).


Stop Foodborne Illness is a non-profit that works diligently to raise awareness about foodborne
pathogens and improve the food safety system from a legislative perspective. The main goal of Stop
Foodborne Illness is to prevent illness or death from foodborne pathogens (Foodborne Illness, n.d).
Stop Foodborne Illness was created by concerned consumers; mothers, daughters, fathers, siblings,
friends, and families who had all been affected by foodborne illness (Foodborne Illness, n.d). They work
tirelessly to educate the public, raise awareness about foodborne illness, and hold the government and
food manufacturers accountable for adhering to safe food production and distribution standards. Some of
the legislation they have helped pass contains recalls of unsafe food, monitoring of food processing
facilities, and increasing the food company’s responsibility to provide safe foods.


Awareness: Keep you and your family safe. You can help now!
Read the information on safe cooking and food storage here:
https://stopfoodborneillness.org/safe-cooking-and-storage
This information will teach you danger zone food temperatures and safe cooking and food storage
techniques.


Action: Donate to Stop Foodborne Illness

Donating helps Stop Foodborne Illness continue to push legislation that keeps us all safe from foodborne
illness.
Donate here: https://stopfoodborneillness.org/donate/


References


Foodborne Germs and Illnesses. (2020, March 18). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Retrieved October 1, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/foodborne-germs.html


Foodborne illness – causes, symptoms and prevention: Stop. Stop Foodborne Illness. (n.d). Retrieved
September 16, 2022, from https://stopfoodborneillness.org/

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