Allay Consulting Newsletter: September is National Food Safety Education Month!

September is National Food Safety Education Month!

We’ve all been there…stomach grumbling, nauseousness, running to the loo, rethinking our food choices earlier that day or the day prior. Chances are, you’re experiencing a foodborne illness. Typically, foodborne diseases are infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites that contaminate foods or beverages. Cannabis is not immune to the risks of foodborne pathogens. In fact, you can get a foodborne illness from anything you orally ingest including cannabis/hemp edibles or dietary supplements. Foodborne illnesses have many common names: gastroenteritis, stomach bug, food poisoning, etc. To celebrate National Food Safety Education Month, we are taking a deeper look into foodborne illness stats, common causes of illness and how to prevent costly and sometimes deadly sicknesses from food and other consumables.


US Foodborne Illness Stats

Getting sick from a foodborne illness is all too common and never a fun experience. In fact, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates the total burden of disease due to contaminated food consumed in the United States accounts for 47.8 million illnesses, 127,839 hospitalizations, and 3,037 deaths. Not only can foodborne illnesses be deadly, they are also expensive. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that foodborne illnesses cost the United States more than $15.6 billion each year. The financial burden accounts from significant medical costs, lost work wages, value of lost leisure, education time, etc. The estimated $15.6 billion lost does not include loss of consumer confidence, money spent in recall repercussions or litigation expenses.


Causes of Food Poising

Foodborne illness can be caused by many different types of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Toxins, chemicals, and allergens can also cause illness. According to the CDC the five most common germs to cause illnesses from food include:

  • Norovirus – incredibly contagious, known as the “cruise ship bug”
  • Salmonella – associated with meat products, sprouts, flour, peanut butter contamination
  • Clostridium perfringens – found in the intestines of animals and associated with various meat products
  • Campylobacter – linked to raw or undercooked poultry
  • Staphylococcus “Staph” – commonly carried by both animals and humans

Most of the top five foodborne illnesses do not last more than a few days or cause long term illness, however, there are a few foodborne illnesses that are more likely to lead to hospitalization and death. The more deadly germs include:

  • Clostridium Botulinum “Botulism” – spores can be found in honey; hence why medical professionals recommend not feeding honey to children younger than 12 months. There have been concerns for botulism in cannabis oil, due to cultivation mediums and the anerobic environment of the oil that could allow for botulism toxins to thrive if not destroyed by a heat treatment.
  • Listeria – can withstand cold temperatures and commonly linked to cold deli meats, cheese, and ice cream
  • Escherichia coli “E.coli” – diverse group of bacteria, can be prevented by washing fruits and vegetables and cooking meats thoroughly
  • Vibrio – associated with raw or undercooked seafood and exposing open wounds in seawater


Food Safety Tips

Statistically, 1 in 6 Americans will get sick from contaminated food or beverages each year. Fortunately, foodborne illnesses are preventable. Whether you’re cooking for the family or preparing consumable goods for the public, food safety must be taken seriously. Prevention is key! The CDC published 4 Steps to Food Safety to help protect you, your loved ones, and the public from getting sick from food.

Washing Hands: Personal hygiene is a must! Wash your hands with soap and water before, during and after preparing food and before eating. Singing the “Happy Birthday” song allows for a 20 second hand wash.

Sanitizing: Sanitizing food contact surfaces is the easiest way to remove bacteria to prevent cross contamination. This includes tables, cutting boards, utensils, and countertops. Simply dilute sanitizing chemicals, wipe surfaces or use a dishwashing machine or three-compartment sink. Don’t forget to wash fresh fruits and vegetables under running water.

Separate: The Offspring said it well, “Keep ‘Em Separated”! Separating raw meats from ready-to-eat foods significantly reduces cross contamination of bacteria. Keep raw meats separate from all other foods whether it be in the grocery cart, in the refrigerator, or when preparing food in the kitchen.

Cook: Most pathogens are heat sensitive, simply cooking foods at the right temperatures can kill germs that can make you sick. The easiest way to ensure food is cooked or heated properly is using a thermometer. Click here for a more detailed list of minimum cooking temperatures with foods.

Chill: Keeping the refrigerator at 40°F or cooler. Cooling food down after cooking as quickly as possible is key. Bacteria multiplies rapidly when left at room temperatures or between 40°F and 140°F. It is common practice to thaw foods on the counter top, but it’s not advised because bacteria multiple quickly when the food reaches room temperature. It’s safer to thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator or in cold water.

All of these practices should be implemented in cannabis manufacturing facilities as well! The FDA may not be regulating cannabis and hemp facilities yet, but you best believe they will be holding the cannabis industry to the same standards as the food and supplement industry, so it is best to be proactive to protect your company and your customers. If you need assistance with implementing food safety or good manufacturing practices, please reach out to Allay Consulting.


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