By Cynthia Sass
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According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), millions of people get sick, about 325,000 are hospitalized, and nearly 5,000 die each year from foodborne illness in the United States. The good news is it's largely avoidable. Break these 5 germ-generating habits to prevent becoming a statistic!

1. Double dipping. According to an ADA survey, 38 percent of Americans admit to "double dipping," a sure way to transfer germs into a bowl of salsa or dip and share them with your family and friends.

The solution: Have everyone spoon a serving of dip onto their individual plates instead of eating out of one communal bowl.

2. Not washing produce before slicing. If you skip rinsing foods like avocado, squash, pineapple, grapefruit, or melon before cutting because you don't eat the outer skin, you may be transferring hidden bacteria from the surface right into the center of the fruit, contaminating the edible portion.

The solution: Assume there's bacteria on the surface and wash every fresh food you eat, especially if it won't be cooked to kill hidden bacteria.

3. Shopping for perishable foods first. Is the deli or dairy section your first stop in the supermarket? If so, you may be putting those foods in the "danger zone" (40-140 degrees F) longer than recommended, which boosts bacterial growth.

The solution: Shop for items like milk and fresh meat last and place them near frozen foods in your grocery cart.

4. Waiting before refrigerating.. Nearly four out of five home cooks think it's necessary to wait until foods cool before putting them in the refrigerator, but in reality, the opposite is true. Food left at room temp too long can breed bacteria, and while refrigeration slows the growth, it does not kill bacteria. In the same ADA survey mentioned above, 36 percent of people admit to eating leftover pizza from the night before…even if it hadn't been refrigerated!

The solution: Always put leftovers away as soon as you're finished cooking or eating. A sniff or taste test won't work because you can't see, smell, or taste the bacteria that can make you sick.

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