HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The month of September is Food Safety Education month bringing awareness to properly handling food items.
The City of Harlingen Health Department Director, Josh Ramirez, said the department makes routine unannounced visits to restaurants and establishments that sell food to ensure the public’s safety.
Ramirez said the health department follows the Texas Food Establishment Rules, which is a set of guidelines that ensure proper food handling including preparation and storage.
He said that following the guidelines ensures establishments know and use the proper cooking, sanitation, and storage temperatures to avoid foodborne illnesses.
“If the product goes out of temperature requirements the most common one is going to be E. coli, another one that’s also out of temperature requirements is Salmonella, but the most common that we see a lot is Shigella-Shigellosis is pretty much when people don’t wash their hands properly after utilizing the restroom,” said Ramirez.
Ramirez said it is important to wash hands properly and also wash fruits and vegetables to avoid any illness.
He said if someone experiences health complications such as diarrhea, stomach aches, or fever six to eight hours after eating food from a business, the first thing to do is seek medical attention. He said people should also report these issues to the health department.
Ramirez explained that the safety guidelines the health department follows should also be practiced when cooking at home.
He recommends using separate cutting boards for each type of product such as beef, chicken, seafood, and vegetables to avoid cross-contamination.
Ramirez said it is also important to thoroughly cook your items to kill any bacteria.
Properly storing leftover food is also important, according to Ramirez.
“Avoid the danger zone, either keep them hot or cold, if you’re going to keep them in the middle not more than two hours, but quickly keep them at a temperature required for each product, because that’s where people get sick,” said Ramirez.
Ramirez said that the temperature of your food items is also important when grocery shopping. He recommends taking purchases to the refrigerator or freezer immediately after shopping to avoid food spoilage and possible food poisoning.
He said carrying a cooler or insulated bags with freezer bags will help if you are unable to refrigerate or freeze items immediately.
Visit the Harlingen Health Department for more information.