The South Dakota Department of Health has said that the 16 cases of E. coli 0157:H7 in the state by late July this year was an increase compared to the 13 cases by late July 2005.

The increase underscores a need for consumers to be reminded of how to guard themselves against foodborne illnesses, says the Vermillion Plain Talk.

SDSU Extension Food Safety Specialist Joan Hegerfeld offers these tips to keep foodborne illnesses at bay:

  • Change your wiping cloth or your dish cloth at least daily, or more often if you’ve recently used it for wiping up some raw meat, poultry or fish juices from your countertop.
  • Reduce handling of raw product which increases the chance for cross-contamination.
  • Consider buying your foods ready to be cooked, such as ground beef patties that are preshaped and ready to grill.
  • Store foods wisely. If the raw meat product is in the same cooler as your beverages, put them in a sealed, tight container and place them on the bottom of your cooler. Ideally, you should use two different coolers, one for your raw meat products and one for your ready-to-eat foods and beverages.
  • Use the same principle in your kitchen refrigerator: The raw meat foods should be on the bottom shelf in a container that will not allow the juices to drip on ready-to-eat foods.
  • Consider who’s doing the cooking. Be sure those preparing the food know the risks involved with cross-contamination. If teenagers are preparing their own food, you may want to encourage foods that involve less preparation and handling unless you are home with them to monitor and teach them food handling practices.
  • Washing of raw meat products, chicken and fish is not necessary. However, if you choose to wash your raw meat products before preparing for cooking be sure to clean and sanitize the sink and preparation area when you are finished.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables just before eating (not when purchased, picked or stored). Running water with rubbing or brushing is best. Don’t use bleach or dish soap. They will leave a residue and in many instances enter the food itself.
  • When finished preparing foods that have raw meat juices, clean and sanitize the preparation area. It’s important to clean first, then sanitize. This keeps the chlorine molecules from being tied up with organic matter, so it is available to destroy the bacteria and parasites.
  • Chlorine bleach is a good sanitizing solution for a wiping cloth in the kitchen. Use 100 parts per million or 1 tablespoon for 2 gallons of water. Do not use the ultra bleach for this dilution. The water temperature should be between 75 degrees and 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If using a spray bottle, use 1 teaspoon per quart of water.