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Fowl or foul, filthy food affects thousands

By Sabrina Fine | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Sept. 13, 2019

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas- —

Dinner may look delicious -- but food poisoning doesn’t taste good.

September is National Food Safety Education Month, established to bring awareness to how each year one in six Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from eating contaminated food, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Joint Base San Antonio has inspectors for food facilities on base and they offer safety recommendations.

“Overall, the facilities here are very good,” said Cesar Romero, 359th Aerospace Medicine Squadron chief of public health operations. “People should feel safe that they have a very high standard.”

Base inspectors often share teaching points, such as following expiration dates and food storage.

Senior Airman Haleigh Kendall, a public health technician for the 359th AMDS, recently inspected a facility and informed them that food must be stored at least 6 inches off the ground.

 “I go out and inspect not only the food facilities on base but also the public facilities such as the Child Development Center,” she said.

Those most vulnerable to food poisoning are children, the elderly, people with pre-existing health problems and pregnant women.

Clean, separate, cook and chill are the four steps to promote food safety that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends.

“I used to live in the dorm and whenever I would go into the community kitchen, it was always messy,” Kendall said. “So I would go ahead and clean off the surface. Everyone on your floor is using one kitchen. You don’t know what their methods are, I would make sure all utensils were sanitized.”

Next, she would clean her hands and use separate knives and cutting boards for meat and vegetables.

“If you are cooking chicken, you want to make sure it’s at the right temperature, which is 165 degrees,” Kendall said. “Also, we don’t want it going longer than four hours without being refrigerated.”

Prepared food, stored correctly in a refrigerator, is only safe to eat within a week of being cooked, Romero advised.

“As far as the fridge in the dorm, I recommend common cleaning,” Kendall said. “They should store prepared food on the bottom. If it’s on the top, if could be dripping onto whatever is stored below.”

She said not following safety rules can cause food to grow bacteria and make people sick.

“Our main mission is to protect our people on base,” Kendall said.

Learn more about food safety at https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/.