The menu calls for barbecued chicken with a tossed salad. Simple enough. But if the chef touches the raw chicken and then immediately hand tosses the salad, the result may be food poisoning.
Salmonella, commonly found in raw meat and raw poultry, is one of several bacteria causing more than 2 million cases of food poisoning each year, according to the Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service. To encourage safe food-handling practices, USDA publishes the "Safe Food Book" and "Safe Food to Go: A Guide to Packing Lunches, Picnicking and Camping Out."
"We want to increase people's awareness so that safe food practices become part of their usual kitchen routine," said USDA spokeswoman Patricia Drayne. The "Safe Food Book" discusses how food spoils and what to do if your freezer fails, while "Safe Food to Go" addresses the issue of keeping food cold during the summer, which is a prime time for food poisoning. Many people don't realize they have food poisoning because the symptoms are similiar to those of intestinal flu.
"People can buy chill packs to freeze and put in a picnic basket, or freeze water in a leak-proof container to use," Drayne said. Other tips include using cold drinks or freezing sandwiches to help keep other food cold.
For free, single copies of the booklets, write: F.M. James, Consumer Information Center, Pueblo, Colo. 81009, and request publication 534P ("Safe Food Book") or 597P ("Safe Food to Go").