Preventing Food Poisoning
Knowing the quick measures for stopping food poisoning could even save a life. Here are the top ways to prevent food infection and steps to take when you detect food poisoning symptoms.
People generally assume that food poisoning occurs only when you eat at restaurants or at other fast food joints, but the scary truth is that you could even get food poisoning from something cooked in your own home.
There are around 76 million number of food poisoning cases with 5000 of them resulting in death in the US every year. The most vulnerable sections are children; the elderly; pregnant women and others with a weak immune system.
Though the government is doing its best to implement stringent food safety requirements, the ball is also in your court. There are plenty of measures that you could take to prevent food poisoning. So let’s check them out.
Signs of Food Poisoning
There are different types of food borne illness, some of which are due to food poisoning bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella food poisoning; others are due to parasites like Toxoplasma.
Some food poisoning also occurs due to viruses, such as norovirus and it could even be fatal at times.
At the onset, you might experience the following symptoms. They might start within a few hours of eating contaminated food or even a few days or weeks later. There are over 250 different types of food poisoning. How long does food poisoning last?
- It depends on the food that caused the contamination.
- The amount of it that was ingested.
- The type of symptoms experienced and the intensity.
Here are some of the effects of food poisoning:
- Abdominal pain.
- Diarrhea due to food infection.
- Fatigue and headache.
- Nausea and vomiting caused by food intoxication.
- Loss of appetite.
- Fever is also among the signs and symptoms of food poisoning.
What Causes Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning onset could be due to:
- Food bought from unhygienic sources.
- Food poisoning in adults could be due to the absence of personal hygiene; coughing/sneezing.
- Insufficient cooking; incorrect storage practices.
- Contaminated utensils and equipment.
- Not following Use By dates could lead to food borne illness.
- Cross contamination between foods, work spaces, utensils, taps and so on.
- Contact with Pets.
- Pests like flies and other insects.
Food poisoning in children: Children below 5 years are more susceptible to food poisoning as their immune system is not strong enough to fight bacteria and germs.
The contamination by bacteria, virus and parasitic agents could begin at any point, such as during the growing of the food; the harvesting; storing and shipping or during preparation.
Foods at Greater Risk
Some foods are more vulnerable to contamination:
- Raw meat and poultry.
- Raw and under-cooked fish and shellfish.
- Raw and under-cooked eggs.
Tip: Stop food poisoning by taking some measures. Don’t taste cookie dough as it contains raw eggs.
- Raw sprouts.
- Unpasteurized milk/milk products.
How to Prevent Food Poisoning: Top 10 Measures
You just need running water, some soap and a clean towel and about 20 seconds.
- Do it before preparing a meal, after preparing it and before eating it.
- After using the bathroom.
- After you change baby diapers.
- After coughing/sneezing/blowing the nose.
- If you touch garbage and after handling pets.
- When you come into your home from outside.
Your food poisoning safety precautions begin at the grocery store.
- Check out the use by dates or expiry dates to avoid food poisoning.
Tip: Never purchase swollen/dented/leaking cans or anything in imperfect packaging.
- Keep meat/poultry products in separate bags and do not let it touch other food products while bringing them home, so that the juices do not leak into other foods. Raw food contains some bacteria.
Tip: Get a cooler bag or insulated bag to keep food cold while transporting frozen foods and meat.
- Store them in the refrigerator as soon as you reach home.
- Take care with high risk food like raw/cooked meat; dairy products; eggs; seafood; ready to eat foods; prepared sandwiches and pizzas and so on. Pack them and take them home immediately.
Tip: Pick such food at the end of your shopping trip.
Keep Your Kitchen Clean
- Use different chopping boards, knives etc for raw food products and ready to eat ones.
- Use a different cloth for every type of job. For instance, different knives for cutting vegetables and raw meat.
Tip: A kitchen roll/single wipe cloth are perfect.
- Clean up crumbs and grease on your counter as you cook instead of doing it finally.
- Use food safe cleaning products and clean cups/plates for serving food.
- Don’t allow pets in your kitchen.
- Wash kitchen dishcloths and towels and dry them.
- Bacteria is invisible to the naked eye, but they can be present on kitchen counters, towels and utensils. Dirty towels are an ideal breeding place for bacteria.
- Wash all utensils with water and soap before use or put them in a dishwasher.
How to Freeze/Defrost Food
Foods like milk/meat/eggs and ready to eat meals/leftovers; fish; baked goods; have to be refrigerated.
- You can allow the food to cool completely before putting it in the fridge.
- Follow manufacturer instructions for refrigerating.
- Keep the fridge temperature at 40 degrees F and the freezer at 0 degrees F or even below.
- Keep your fridge clean and hygienic.
- Check out Best Before and Use By dates before consuming.
- Always cover the food; place it in airtight containers or wrap it well in freezer bags.
Tip: Glass containers are best. If you’re using plastic, check that they are BPA free.
- Store meat and poultry the safe way.
- Do not overfill the fridge.
- Don’t keep leftover food for more than 4 days.
- Defrost fish/meat in the fridge or in a microwave before cooking. Keep it in a bowl so that the juice doesn’t flow into other foods. Do not refreeze after defrosting. You can freeze them after cooking them.
Tip: In spite of all precautions if you fall sick, check out what to take for food poisoning.
Most important are raw meat and fish.
- Cook every food for the correct length of time and at the correct temperature. Make sure that food is cooked thoroughly in order to destroy harmful bacteria.
Pork, kebabs, turkey, chicken and sausages should be cooked till it is steaming hot, without any pink meat within.
- Bacteria like e coli and salmonella are killed during the cooking process.
- Be careful to cook the food through while barbecuing.
- Check out the centers of meat and fish to see it is cooked thoroughly.
- Cook rare steak at a high temperature to kill bacteria.
- Frozen foods must be defrosted before you start cooking them.
- Bacteria grows from around 9 degrees C to 62 degrees C. So keep hot food hot and cold food cold to reduce risks.
- Raw food contains some bacteria. Store raw meat, fish at the bottom of your fridge, so that the juices don’t drip on ready to eat food like cooked meat; or salads.
- Cover food when storing them in the fridge.
- Store meat/poultry in sealed containers on bottom shelf of your refrigerator.
- Keep cooked meat away from raw meat or ready to eat foods.
- Store leftovers immediately in the fridge. Do not keep cooked food at room temperature for more than two hours. Refrigerate perishables promptly preferably below a temperature of 5 degrees C.
- Check fridge door seals to see that they are airtight.
Cross contamination occurs when harmful bacteria gets transferred from one food or product to another.
- Keep raw meat and poultry or other seafood away from other products you purchase in your shopping cart.
- Keep raw meat etc. in plastic bags, so that they don’t drip into other foods.
- Refrigerate such products in plastic bags or closed containers.
- Store eggs in containers and refrigerate them.
Eating Food: Safety Tips
- Rinse all vegetables and fruits used for salads under a cold water tap to remove soil or debris that can contain bacteria.
- Avoid eating raw meat or fish, sushi, undercooked meat; seafood; shellfish such as mussels and clams; and raw eggs etc.
- Eat raw fruits and vegetables only after washing them in clean water.
- Avoid eating soft cheeses or Mexican cheeses like queso blanco, feta, as these are made from unpasteurized milk. Stick with Cheddar cheese or Swiss cheese.
- Do not eat cookie batter or cake batter, Caesar dressing, etc. as they contain raw eggs.
- Marinate foods in the fridge and not on your kitchen counter.
We all love our local restaurants. But do be careful when you eat out at restaurants or delis or from street vendors.
- Check out the restaurant with your eye. Are there trash bins overflowing? Are there open back doors where flies or vermin’s could enter? Check the outside. If it is dirty and unkempt, it is most likely to attract flies, cockroaches etc.
- Avoid the salad bars at restaurants and buffets. (People touch it with their hands and the salads are not kept at the correct temperature)
According to the Center for Disease and Control, salsa/guacamole in restaurants are one of the major causes of food poisoning, as they make them in large batches and don’t refrigerate it properly.
- Check out the restrooms.
- Check out the food hygiene rating given to the restaurant.
Last but not least, this is the best way to prevent food contamination.
- Take good care of your health.
- Get the required amount of sleep.
- Do proper exercise.
- Take nutritious food and drink plenty of water.
Wrap Up – Averting Food Poisoning
Food poisoning is quite a common problem, but there are steps for preventing it. In some cases, there is no need of any treatment, but there are others where you need to be hospitalised. Follow the guidelines mentioned above to remain safe.
Thorough cooking kills most harmful bacteria and organisms, even cooked food becomes contaminated if you don’t practise good hygiene and storage methods.
This could lead to food contamination and you’d then have to start searching for food poisoning cures.
Most food poisoning cases resolve by themselves, but if you notice symptoms, look out for a food poisoning remedy; remain hydrated and seek the help of a pharmacist or a doctor, who might suggest some antibiotics for food poisoning.