Food poisoning sickens almost 80 million people a year worldwide, and nearly one-tenth of those people affected die. It is usually caused by toxic organisms that include bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Whether or not you become sick after eating contaminated food depends on your age, your health, the organism, and the amount of contaminated food consumed.
To prevent food poisoning at home, here are some simple tips you can implement.
- Cook Foods Properly. Foods need to be cooked between 145º and 165ºF to kill dangerous organisms, and the best way to ensure that happens is to use a food thermometer. If you need to purchase one, here’s the Maverick Redi-Check Pro LCD Food Probe Thermometer.
- Defrost and Marinate Foods Properly. Foods should never be thawed at room temperature. If you need to defrost something, put it in the refrigerator or use the defrost setting on your microwave. In addition, when you marinate foods, always do so in the refrigerator.
- Discard Foods When in Doubt. If you’re unsure whether or not foods have been prepared, stored, or served properly, discard them. Sometimes, when foods are left at room temperature too long, they won’t look or smell funny, but they will be contaminated with toxins or bacteria, and cooking will not destroy them. So, when in doubt, be safe, and toss them out.
- Prevent Cross Contamination. Always keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood separate from fruits and vegetables. At home place raw meat in tightly sealed bags to prevent juices from dripping on other foods because if raw vegetables are eaten and have been contaminated, you can get sick. This separation rule applies even when you’re grocery shopping. Keeps raw meat separate from other foods.
- Refrigerate and Freeze Foods Properly. Always refrigerate or freeze items within two hours of purchase, and, if you’re not going to eat foods within two days, freeze them. Additionally, when storing cooked foods in the refrigerator, place them in shallow containers, so they will chill quicker. Make sure when you purchase eggs, you leave them in the carton, and put them in the refrigerator soon after purchase.
- Serve Foods the Right Way. Never place cooked meats back on a previously used surface that touched raw meats, poultry, or seafood, such as a plate or a cutting board.
- Toss Cutting Boards. If your cutting board has deep grooves, and if you use it regularly to cut vegetables and raw meat, replace it because it’s difficult to clean properly. In fact, if possible, try to purchase two cutting boards: One for vegetables and the other for meats, poultry, and seafood. If you’re interested, I found these flexible cutting boards with different color labels to help you identify the cutting boards easier.
- Wash Your Hands After Using the Toilet. You can spread diseases by not washing your hands, particularly after using the bathroom. Also, when washing your hands, do a thorough job and wash well with warm, soapy water. If you’re unsure of proper hand washing techniques here is a one minute video you can watch
- Wash Your Hands, Utensils, Kitchen Equipment, and Kitchen Surfaces Properly. Every time you touch or handle raw meats, poultry, or seafood, wash your hands thoroughly with warm soapy water to prevent contaminating raw fruits or vegetables. You also need to thoroughly wash utensils, cutting boards, or other kitchen surfaces, with hot, soapy water, or you can easily sanitize them with 1 tablespoon chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water. Additionally, remember kitchen equipment and appliances can also become contaminated, so make sure egg beaters, can openers, and slicers are cleaned.
Remember, cross contamination happens in one of three ways: 1) food to food; 2) people to food; or 3) equipment or utensils to food. You have the ability to prevent food poisoning in your home by following the safe practices described above. It’s always easier to take precautions and be safe than it is suffer the effects of food poisoning, which good be deadly. So, don’t be a victim.