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Health department focuses on food safety

PARK HILLS — September is National Food Safety Education Month. St. Francois County Environmental Health Specialist Jon Peacock wants to raise awareness in five key areas of food safety. He said the Centers For Disease Control (CD) estimate 76 million people experience food born illnesses each year. Of those there are about 5,000 deaths.

“I want to focus on some gaps that exist in food safety that we can all take care of at home by paying a little bit closer attention or by taking a few extra steps,” he said.

Peacock said the first step is to avoid purchasing food from unsafe sources. He encourages consumers to look over the food before they purchase it.

“Look at the packaging for signs of damage or contamination,” he said.

Always purchase  USDA or MO Department of Agriculture inspected meats and pasteurized milk or dairy products.

He also said when consumers get home, they need to clean and sanitize all food-contact surfaces, such as counter tops.

“A cheap, effective way to sanitize is by using unscented household bleach,” Peacock said. “Mix one tablespoon of bleach per one gallon of water.”

Peacock said the next key point is to prevent cross-contamination. An example of this would be handling raw meat before a barbecue and then handling the lettuce for a salad without washing your hands or the salad leaves.

He said to always wash hands, equipment and utensils with hot soapy water after they come in contact with raw meat, poultry and seafood, eggs and unwashed fresh produce.

“Another thing people do is they will carry raw meat out on a tray or plate to the grill and then carry the cooked meat back into the house on the same plate or tray,” he said. “You need to wash it off before you do that.”

Preventing time and temperature abuse is Peacock’s next stressing point. According to the CDC, 23 percent of consumer’s refrigerators are not cold enough.

Peacock recommends putting a thermometer in the refrigerator to make sure the temperature is below 41 degrees. Foods like meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, cooked beans, potatoes, rice and sliced melons require time and temperature control to keep them safe. Disease-causing pathogens will grow on these types of foods between 41 degrees and 135 degrees.

Food that is not consumed within two hours must be refrigerated.

Peacock’s last key point is to practice good personal hygiene.

“Wash you hands when working with food, after the use of a restroom, when eating, drinking or using tobacco or any other times your hands are dirty,” he said. “Wash your hands with hot, soapy water for a minimum of 20 seconds.

On Sept. 23 the health department will have food safety training at Mineral Area College. There will be two sessions from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1 to 3 p.m.  There is no charge for the class. Anyone interested in attending should call the health department at 573-431-1947.

ServSafe Classes will begin at Mineral Area College on Sept. 29. Classes will be held every Tuesday and Thursday from 4-6 p.m. until Oct. 22. The cost is $109. For more information contact Michel Epps at 573-518-2342.

Chris Cline is a reporter for the Daily Journal. Contact him at 573-431-2010, ext. 114 or at

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