What’s your food safety IQ?

September is National Food Safety Education Month. How much do you know about protecting yourself and your family from foodborne illness?

Did you know that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each year 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths in this country can be traced to foodborne pathogens. Even though the U.S. food supply is among the safest in the world, organisms that you can’t see, smell, or taste—bacteria, viruses, and tiny parasites—are everywhere in the environment and some of these can make us sick. Foodborne illness costs Americans billions of dollars each year, but there are simple precautions you can take to help protect yourself and your family.

The Partnership for Food Safety Education shares these tips to help keep you safe:

Suds up for 20 seconds. Wash hands with soap under warm, running water before and after handling food to fight bacteria.

Start with a clean scene. Wash cutting boards, dishes, countertops and utensils with hot water and soap.

Keep foods separate. Separate raw meat, seafood and eggs from other foods in your grocery shopping cart, grocery bags and in your refrigerator.

Don’t rinse meat or poultry. It is not a safety step and can spread germs around your kitchen.

Keep your refrigerator at 40 degrees F or below. Refrigerate leftovers in shallow containers within two hours.

Rinse fresh fruits and veggies under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten.

Read and follow package cooking instructions. The instructions may call for a conventional oven, convection oven, toaster oven or microwave, and it’s important to use the proper appliance to ensure even cooking.

Place meat and poultry in plastic bag provided at the meat counter, and keep it in the plastic bag in your refrigerator at home.

Never defrost at room temperature. Safely defrost food in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave.

Use a food thermometer. Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that causes illness.

Clean out your fridge. No leftovers past 3 to 4 days. If foods will not be eaten soon, consider freezing them instead of refrigerating.

Following these simple precautions takes just a few extra minutes, but can protect your family from serious illness.

You can learn more about food safety and view the “Story of Your Dinner” video at www.fightbac.org/food-safety-education/the-story-of-your-dinner/.