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Food-borne illnesses sicken 76 million people, cause 725,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths nationwide every year.

Yet most people are clueless about proper safety and storage techniques that can prevent the spread of food-borne illnesses, commonly caused by bacteria and viruses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"People think they can keep (cooked) rice in the refrigerator for weeks. They don't know it can develop spores, and become as dangerous as meat or cheese. I think everyone could use a little food safety education," said Ada Medina-Solorzano, a University of Florida extension faculty member in Palm Beach County who teaches food safety.

Now you can log on to FoodSafety.gov, a new interactive Web site, for a quick course. The site puts food safety information from multiple federal agencies on one cyber-shelf so that the public and food professionals can find it easily.

Check out the detailed charts that can tell you everything from how long you can safely store a hard-boiled egg (one week); to internal temperature of a properly cooked hamburger (165 degrees); to when food-borne illness symptoms show up (from 20 minutes after eating to a surprising six weeks). The latest food recalls also are listed on the page, and there is a link for reporting food-related issues and illnesses to regulators.

Consumers can sign up to receive instant e-mail alerts and information, or electronically question food experts.

"Our work is designed to prevent outbreaks of food-borne illness ... and to react quickly and decisively to contamination in the food supply," said Jerry Mande, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's under secretary for food safety.

Officials reported 963 Florida food-borne illness cases in 2007, for example, the most current year for which statistics are available. But officials say the vast majority of such cases are never reported, as people don't seek medical attention.

Poultry was the most common single cause, cited in 11 percent. But as Medina-Solorzano tells her students, nothing edible should be considered always safe. Tainted mashed potatoes served in a corrections facility were behind Florida's largest salmonella outbreak in 2007, state statistics show, which sickened 79 people.

Cold refrigerators, hot stoves and proper preparation practices can keep food bugs away. But if Medina-Solorzano could give only one food safety tip to at-home cooks and professionals, it would be: Wash your hands.

Hand sanitizers don't count. She means at least 20 seconds of scrubbing in warm to hot water. "There is no substitute," Medina-Solorzano said.


I've had hot dogs in the freezer for more than 6 months and they turned out fine. O_O


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Temperature doesn't matter in washing hands because your skin can't handle the water that's hot enough to kill the germs. It needs to be boiling to do that, and yeah, try and wash your hands in that. And really, just good soap works fine. You don't need anti-bacterial soap. It helps, but overuse makes it's own problems.

Yesterday was the deadline for all complaints!


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rice in the frige for weeks? :barf:

I'm w Dubie on the antibacterial soap thing too. We need some exposure to germs. Not salmonella but the more garden variety crap that we build up immunity to.


                                               Look at the flowers

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The only thing I use anti-bacterial soap for is washing dishes. And that's because I'm uncomfortable using bleach on things I eat off of. >< For everything else, I just use a regular cleaner, like that orange stuff. It gets stuff clean, smells good, and has a much lower risk of mutating bacteria.

Yesterday was the deadline for all complaints!


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