Little else ruins a good day as quickly as food poisoning does. Brought about by poor hygiene and food handling habits, foodborne illnesses affect 1 in every 10 people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). An estimated 420, 000 also die every year as a result of subpar food safety.
More than 250 foodborne diseases, including Salmonella and Norovirus, have been identified by researchers. Most of them are infections, caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Illnesses like Hepatitis A can also be spread via contaminated food. As terrifying as this may sound, there are ways to protect yourself that just involve a great deal of careful cleaning.
By changing your habits and practicing good hygiene, you can reduce the threat of foodborne diseases. Read on to discover some of the best food safety tips to help you prevent food poisoning.
Cleanliness is key. Keeping your kitchen clean and handling food properly reduces your chances of getting food poisoning.
Whether you’re planning on a ribeye steak, roasted chicken or baked salmon for dinner, never wash your raw meats in the sink. This might lead to cross-contamination. In the sink, bacteria and other organisms might come in contact with foods typically eaten raw, like vegetables.
It’s not uncommon for soups and saucy foods to splatter as they heat up in the microwave. Practice good hygiene by wiping out stains before they set. If it’s too late, add a cup of water, several slices of lemon or several tablespoons of distilled white vinegar to a microwave-safe cup or bowl. Place it in the microwave for 3 minutes on high until the water gets hot or steam forms on the inside. Then wipe the inside with a clean cloth.
Remember to deep clean your fridge every 3 months. Check for spills or leaks and purge expired products. Remove everything and give the shelves and drawers a good wipe down with a solution of warm water and baking soda to tackle stains. Disinfect your fridge with any safe-to-use, food grade cleansers. Keep your fridge clean by storing leftovers in airtight containers.
Frozen foods should never be defrosted on the kitchen counter. Instead, leave them to thaw on a dish in the fridge or use a microwave oven that has a defrost setting. Regularly clean your kitchen surfaces with a suitable commercial cleaner.
Bonus tip: never refreeze a product that has been improperly thawed out. The heat introduced when a frozen product is left on the counter or held under running water, for example, quickens the spread of bacteria. Safely thawing food in the refrigerator means it is safe to refreeze without cooking, according to the USDA.
Although the quality drops because of moisture lost when thawing, bacteria is not introduced to the product with this method. It is also safe to freeze cooked foods made from previously frozen products.
Chances are, your hands are riddled with germs.
Washing your hands with soap before preparing meals is vital to prevent food poisoning, but there are other instances where handwashing is just as crucial.
You should also always wash your hands after handling raw meat, as it might have tiny amounts of germs like Salmonella, E. coli O157, and norovirus. These can cause diarrhea, if ingested. Diarrhea is one symptom of food poisoning.
If the germs remain on your hands, they can contaminate objects you touch and spread to other people, making them sick as well. Studies show that proper handwashing can reduce the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 31%.
Make sure to lather up to your wrists and get underneath your fingernails with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. It’s very important to dry your hands on a clean cloth or with paper towels.
Love having ice cold watermelon for dessert? Always be sure to wash all produce, even if they have non-edible skins. Melons and other fruits with rough rinds should be washed before being cut to prevent organisms on the surface from making contact with the flesh.
Never use soap or bleach to wash your food. Removing pesticides, soil and other substances can be done with the simplest of household items – vinegar and tap water. Just rinse leafy vegetables under running water before eating or cooking. Clean mushrooms by wiping them with a damp cloth.
Practicing cleanliness doesn’t just apply to handling food – you also need to keep kitchenware clean.
Dish cloths are a hotbed of bacteria like E. coli. This is why experts recommend machine washing them in hot water at least every day. Your next best option is to dip the cloths in a diluted bleach solution between uses, then let them dry.
Cutting boards and knives come in direct contact with raw meat. Hence, it is especially important to use different boards and knives for each type of animal product. These tools must be washed thoroughly with soap and dried properly after use.
Proper storage is also important
Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. If you’re picking up some milk, chicken or cheese from the supermarket, make sure to go straight home. Transport foods that have to be kept cold in an insulated bag or ice-filled cooler. They should not be out in warm weather for more than an hour or two at the most.
In 2012, the refrigerator was voted the most important invention in the history of food. Good fridge organization can help reduce the risk of food poisoning. Raw poultry, meat or fish should never be placed where they can drip onto other foods, especially foods eaten raw like fruits or vegetables.
Take advantage of the shelves and drawers in your fridge. Sort your perishables and non-perishables and keep track of their expiry dates. Put foods that are expiring where you can see them to avoid waste.
Prepping some ribs to throw in the oven or on the grill? Remember, marinated foods have to be kept refrigerated. Leaving them out at room temperature might cause germs to rapidly multiply. The same germs could be in the marinade as well.
Cooking kills bacteria
Leftover marinade should never be reused without boiling it first to kill the bacteria.
In fact, meats and other animal products should always be cooked to the correct temperatures. Use a food thermometer to check if your food has reached an internal temperature of 145°C (293 °F) for pork and fish, 160°C (320°F) for ground meat and 165°C (329°F) for poultry.
If you’re throwing a party and having a buffet line, protect your guests’ stomachs! Keep hot foods hot with portable burners and have enough ice on hand to keep cold foods cold.
When eating out
Sometimes, cooking just takes up too much time. Eating out at your favorite restaurant or café can be both a splurge and a timesaver. But when you’re not in charge of the food preparation, how can you still know for sure?
There are some signs experts recommend looking out for. Check for an inspection rating. Examine the restrooms to make sure they are clean and properly equipped with soap and paper towels. Pay attention to the state of the floors, table tops and counter tops – they shouldn’t be sticky or covered with litter.
Cutlery and plates should also be properly stored. Get a peek of the kitchen, if you can, to see whether the cooks are properly attired, and the environment is clean. Online reviews can also help determine if an eatery is up to standard.
There are plenty of food establishments out there! Use your eyes, not just your stomach, to decide where to go.
While you might not have control over how food is handled when you eat out, you still reign supreme at home. Take your health into your own hands with these guidelines and make your kitchen a safer place for you and your family. With proper food handling habits, you can reduce your chance of getting food poisoning.
Food is a source of nourishment, a time for celebration, a form of comfort – don’t let poor hygiene get in the way of this.