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Grant will help educate public on food safety

Wilson Daily Times - 12/22/2018

Dec. 22--Foodborne illnesses don't necessarily occur from restaurants. About two-thirds of all foodborne illnesses never get reported and are self-treated at home, said Angela Manning, director of environmental health at the Wilson County Health Department,

"Sometimes we have bad habits at home," Manning said.

But thanks to a federal grant, Wilson's environmental health staff will be working in the new year to make Wilson residents more aware of the importance of food safety at home through education and outreach.

"We will be working all through next year taking any opportunities that we can to speak to citizens about food safety," Manning said.

She said county health officials hope to speak to civic groups, churches and other organizations to get the word out in preventing what's commonly known as food poisoning.

"Because it's self-treated at home, it's one of the most underreported illnesses," Manning said, adding that most people aren't aware just how dangerous it can be. "We want people to know as much food safety as the restaurants do."

According to the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention, 48 million Americans get sick from foodborne illnesses each year; 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die.


Part of the process will include educating residents on four categories: clean, separate, cook and chill.

Examples include making sure people know what the final and safe cooking temperatures should be for poultry, beef, seafood and pork.

"Making sure that things like marinades and sauces are not used for raw basting and served as a finish sauce without being thoroughly cooked," Manning said. "Using separate cutting boards for vegetables versus your raw meats. Ways to possibly make sanitizer at home just to keep in the cabinet so that if you've worked with raw chicken or raw hamburger, you can sanitize your countertops, cutting boards and surfaces."

Other preventative tips include keeping children's sippy cups away from the area where you're cutting raw chicken or handling raw foods.

Another big tip to prevent foodborne illnesses?

"Wash all produce whether it says pre-washed or not," she said. "Be aware of any recalls through the FDA. Lettuce was recently in the news over the Thanksgiving holidays. Produce has been a frequent item of recall due to illnesses."


The $26,000 federal grant will also go toward another community-wide project in prevention when it comes to public health.

Officials will be conducting a risk-factor study for Wilson County restaurants.

"This is specifically toward what are the risk factors for Wilson County for foodborne illnesses in our restaurants," she said. "This is not an inspection. It's a free visit where we educate restaurant owners."

She said environmental health staff will also provide restaurants with educational materials and free equipment.

"Then we will identify any risk factors that we observe during our visit," she said. "We will put together what the top three risk factors are for Wilson County."

Once officials do that, they will develop interventions and educational trainings geared toward restaurant owners to help them with employee trainings, health officials said.

Manning said if hand-washing is identified as one of the risk factors for Wilson County, the environmental health staff would then come up with better ways for training as well as risk-control plans.

"We are really excited about the educational outreach," Manning said. "For so long we've only been known for regulatory enforcement. But that public education and that educational opportunity is probably 50 percent of our job."


(c)2018 The Wilson Daily Times (Wilson, N.C.)

Visit The Wilson Daily Times (Wilson, N.C.) at www.wilsontimes.com

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