Food poisoning, also called food-borne illness, is a common, distressing, and sometimes life-threatening problem. People infected with food-borne organisms may have no symptoms or may have symptoms ranging from mild intestinal discomfort to severe dehydration and bloody diarrhea.
Common sources of infection are foods that have been incorrectly stored or not cooked properly, or which have been cross-contaminated by other foods.
Depending on the type of infection, people can even die as a result of food poisoning. That is why it is very important to take steps to prevent food poisoning.
The risk of picking up food-borne bugs at home can be reduced by following these ten food safety recommendations.
1 Keep hands clean
Hands should be washed with soap and water before and during food preparation. If that’s not possible, use an antibacterial wipe, gel or solution. This should be repeated after touching raw foods (meat and vegetables) and after contact with any other possible source of contamination (going to the bathroom, changing baby, petting an animal, changing kitty litter, handling soil or objects dirtied with soil, etc.).
2 Stay out of the kitchen when sick
When gastroenteritis strikes, avoid preparing meals for yourself or for friends and family. Find someone to take over if possible, or be very vigilant about hand washing. Opt for foods that don’t require much preparation.
3 Get leftovers straight in the fridge
Don’t keep any cooked foods or dishes at room temperature for more than two hours before putting them in the fridge.
4 Keep fridges clean
If foods spill inside the fridge, clean them up immediately with a suitable detergent. Fridges should be cleaned fully as often as necessary and at least once a year.
5 Use separate chopping boards
Keep one chopping board for raw meat and fish, and another for cooked foods and clean vegetables. Once foods are cooked, don’t reuse the same dishes or utensils to carry or handle raw ingredients.
6 Check fridge temperatures
The coldest part of a fridge should be kept at a temperature between 0 and 4°C. Check the door seals to ensure they’re still airtight.
7 Cook ground meat thoroughly
Protect young children, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems from harmful bugs and bacteria by cooking ground meat products thoroughly. A ground meat patty served rare could still harbor harmful bacteria.
8 Don’t keep ready-to-eat dishes too long
Recommendations suggest that pre-prepared deli products, ready-to-eat dishes, cream-based cakes or highly perishable foods that aren’t pre-wrapped and which don’t have a use-by date should be kept for no more than three days. Retailers should be able to provide more specific guidelines.
9 Avoid raw foods
Children, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are strongly advised to avoid raw meat and fish (carpaccio, ceviche, sushi, etc.) and unpasteurized dairy products. Freezing fish for seven days is an effective way of killing parasites (such as Anisakis). With fresh produce, check the label before freezing to avoid refreezing products that have already thawed.
10 Keep baby’s bottles in the fridge
Special care should be taken with baby meals and bottles of infant formula: keep them for no more than 48 hours at 4°C.