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Health Spotlight: Food safety mistakes to avoid

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Every year, 128,000 people are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne illnesses including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

About 48 million people every year experience the symptoms of foodborne illness, or food poisoning, and severe cases can land them in the hospital or even worse.

Foodborne illness typically happens when people eat foods that have been contaminated due to unsafe handling.

People may wash their hands, the produce and the utensils before cooking, but they may also need to consider washing reusable grocery bags. Researchers found uncooked meat juices on 41% of grocery bags, so not washing a reusable bag can spread bacteria to the rest of the food before even leaving the store.

Another possible mistake: not sanitizing the kitchen counter. Listeria can stay on kitchen counters for up to six days and wiping down the counters will not get rid of the bacteria. People will need to use a disinfecting spray and let it sit long enough to kill the germs.

Where people put raw meat in their fridges could also cause problems. Joe Kivett, author of “The Food Safety Book,” said, “You’ve got that package of chicken and let’s say you put it on the top shelf and it starts to leak and now it’s leaked into your produce drawer,” spreading bacteria to fruits and vegetables.

Instead, wrap meat in additional plastic bags and then store them in the bottom of the fridge.

Also, never leave food out for too long. Kivett said, “The key thing to remember is make sure that food is not in the danger zone for more than two hours. The danger zone is temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees.”

One more food safety mistake to avoid: not washing fruits and vegetables with inedible skins.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration found listeria on the skins of 17% of avocados they tested, which can transfer to the edible pulp of the avocado when cutting or peeling. So, it would be a good idea to wash the skins of avocados, watermelons and pineapples before consuming.

This story was created from script aired on WISH-TV.