GCHD highlights September as National Food Safety Education Month

Post Date:09/09/2019 12:45 PM

Each year, an estimated one in six Americans – that’s 48 million people – get sick from food poisoning.

Anyone can get sick from food poisoning. The good news is there are ways to protect yourself and your family from falling ill.

As you prepare and handle food, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests you follow these four tips: wash your hands, utensils and surfaces often when cooking; separate cooked food from raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs, which can spread germs; use a food thermometer to make sure foods are cooked to an internal temperature that kills germs; and refrigerate perishable foods and leftovers within two hours and chill within one hour if it’s above 90°F.

September marks National Food Safety Education Month. Below are some areas to pay attention to when dining out.

Look for a valid permit

All properly permitted and inspected food service establishments are required to display their food service permit where customers can see it. The permit is bright yellow and contains the GCHD logo at the top and a seal at the bottom. Locate the permit and verify it’s not expired.

“A permit confirms the establishment you’re visiting is in our system to be routinely inspected and that it has met proper safety requirements to prepare and serve food,” said Martin Entringer, GCHD consumer health services manager.

Check inspection scores

Most food service establishments are inspected at least twice annually based on criteria established in the Texas Food Establishment Rules. Low-risk facilities require one inspection per year. Inspections may occur more frequently based on an establishment’s risk level, violations and complaints.

GCHD performs approximately 5,500 food service inspections annually. Inspection results, scored as demerits, are posted online at www.gchd.org/restaurantscores

“Demerit scores reflect conditions at the time of the inspection. They may not indicate current conditions,” Entringer added. “We suggest reviewing demerit scores over a period of time for the best representation of an establishment’s overall conditions.”

Check for cleanliness

The first indication of a restaurant’s overall cleanliness is the exterior. Look around to see if the building and grounds are well maintained. Once inside, make sure the tables, silverware and dishware are clean. Servers should be well-groomed and wearing clean uniforms. Restroom cleanliness also offers insight into a restaurant’s overall sanitation.

Be cautious with raw or undercooked food

Raw meat, poultry, eggs and seafood may carry bacteria that can cause illness, especially with those who have medical conditions. Proper thorough cooking kills potentially harmful bacteria.

Be careful with leftovers

Taking food to go is perfectly safe. Remember to refrigerate within two hours or one hour if the weather is over 90°F Leftovers should be eaten within three to four days.

Some groups of people are more likely to get sick and have a more serious illness including children younger than 5, adults aged 65 and older, people with health problems or who take medicines that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness and pregnant women. According to the CDC, those who are more likely to get food poisoning should not eat: undercooked or raw animal products including meat, poultry, eggs or seafood; raw or slightly cooked sprouts; unpasteurized (raw) milk and juices; and soft cheese unless it is labeled as made with pasteurized milk.

Food poisoning signs include high fever higher than 102°F, bloody diarrhea, frequent vomiting, diarrhea for more than three days and dehydration.

GCHD sanitarians routinely inspect more than 1,800 food service establishments for compliance with state regulations designed to protect the health and well-being of customers. GCHD investigates sanitation complaints related to food service establishments. Complaints may be filed by filling out the form at www.gchd.org/complaints or by calling 409-938-2241. Please provide contact information to allow GCHD to follow-up. Pictures may be submitted with complaints.

Food poisoning is a common, yet preventable public health problem. If someone believes they became ill from eating at a restaurant in Galveston County, it’s important to quickly report it to GCHD. Prompt reporting gives GCHD epidemiologists the best chance at determining the source.

Callers should be prepared to offer information about symptoms, what and where they recently ate and if they’ve seen a doctor. Suspected food poisoning may be reported to 409-938-2208 or 409-938-2215 during business hours or 1-888-241-0442 after hours.

Return to full list >>