The truth about food poisoning
In the USA alone, there are more than 76 million food poisoning cases each year, with 5000 people dying from it at the same time. The most vulnerable age groups are pregnant women, people with a weakened immune system, children and the elderly. Although the Senate is having legislation that would enact strict food-safety requirements in mind, nothing has been put to vote yet. This is why we need to learn how to protect ourselves from food poisoning, and you can do it with the 8 tips below.
Pay attention to your shopping list
It’s safe to say that food safety begins on your shopping list. When shopping for food in the market, make sure you get the frozen ingredients last in order to allow them to stay cold for as long as possible. The raw meat should be separated from the other ingredients, and once you’re done, you need to put the things you’ve bought in your fridge immediately. Of course, taking a look at the expiration date is important as well. Shopping in upscale markets won’t protect you from food poisoning, as most delis are not that clean.
Give your produce a nice wash
The produce should be thoroughly washed even if you plan on peeling it. According to experts, you should wash it at least 3 times as handling it exposes the product to new contaminants. Although even the most thorough wash doesn’t guarantee that the product will be contaminant-free, it certainly reduces the risk.
Separate the raw from ready food
Thawing food on your countertop is a bad move as the outer layer can warm up quickly and increase the risk of bacterial growth. When preparing raw meat and ready food, you need to use a few utensils and cutting boards in order to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. Once you’re done washing the raw meat, you need to clean your sink thoroughly in order to eliminate the bacteria left behind.
Raw eggs are a no-no
Since the beginning of the 90s, eggs have been linked to more than 300 food poisoning outbreaks, usually to the salmonella bacteria which is highly dangerous. Bacteria from raw eggs can be found on the spoon used to stir the cake batter or in that tasty piece of raw cookie dough, so make sure to avoid licking the spoon or eating the cookie dough before it’s baked.
Pay more attention to the temperature
When preparing raw meat, you need to pay more attention to the temperature. Cook your meat thoroughly and check the temperature by using an internal thermometer – steaks need 145 C to be cooked, hamburgers require 160, while poultry needs 165. Remember that bacteria multiply between 40 and 140 C pretty fast, so make sure to check the temperature even if the chicken breast looks done. Reheating leftovers should be done at 165, and storing food should be done once the temperature drops below 40. According to experts, reheating by steaming will kill all the bacteria that may have multiplied in the meantime.
Suspicious leftovers should be thrown out
Leftovers are always a major factor in food poisoning. If you’re planning to eat leftovers, follow the 2-2-4 rule – never leave food out for longer than 2 hours, refrigerate it in 2-inch deep containers and use leftovers after no more than 4 days. If any food leftovers look suspicious to you, you should throw it out just to be safe. Contaminated food doesn’t necessarily smell or look bad, but if anything has stayed in your fridge for more than 3-4 days, it should probably be thrown out.
Take extra precaution if you’re pregnant
Food safety is all the more important when you’re pregnant, as your immune system is significantly weaker at this time of your life. Infections that may be mild for pregnant women can be deadly to the unborn child. Listeria, one of the most dangerous bacteria which can be found in deli meats and cheese may only cause mild symptoms but has been known to cause miscarriage and fetal abnormalities more than once. This is why it’s important to pay more attention to the food safety when preparing meat or frozen products when you’re pregnant.
Choose your restaurants carefully
When eating out, you need to pick the restaurant carefully. The NYC Board of Health requires all restaurants to display health inspection info on their windows, so make sure the restaurant you’ve picked has it. Check the bathrooms as well – if they’re filthy, the whole restaurant is filthy as well. Avoid ordering medium-rare meats and inform the manager if the food you ordered isn’t hot – all of these tips will help you avoid food poisoning.