5 Tips to avoid the dreaded food poisoning


The United States has already seen seven documented cases of multistate food poisoning outbreaks. Don’t come down with the dreaded illness with these top 5 tips.

Food poisoning isn’t just annoying. It can be extremely dangerous, especially for children, the elderly, and those with low immune systems. Despite regulations and knowledge about food hygiene, there have already been seven documented cases for multistate food poisoning outbreaks. One has been E. coli, but the others have all been linked to salmonella through various sources.

The last thing you want is to deal with the dreaded illness, even if it is mild. You can take steps to avoid outbreaks, whether you eat meat or don’t (there were cases of salmonella in dried coconut and raw sprouts!). Here are five tips to follow.

(Photo by Tim Boyle/Newsmakers)

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Keep food at designated temperatures

It all starts from when you get the food and take it home. Don’t be tempted to get the grocery shop done at the start of an errand run to get it all out of the way. Hot food needs to be kept hot and cold food needs to be kept cold. If it remains in the car on a hot summer’s day for too long, you’re going to find harmful organisms grow.

If you are in hot weather, consider getting a cooler filled with ice or insulated bags. These are especially beneficial for meat and poultry, milk and other dairy, and some fruits and vegetables.

Place fridge on the bottom shelf

When you put meat or poultry in the fridge, think about where you’re placing it. Meat and poultry will drip onto lower shelves, so make sure they’re as low as possible. The bottom shelf is perfect, with your fruit and vegetables higher up or in the vegetable drawers. When you remove the meat, remove the shelf as well to give it a thorough clean.

Even when you do remove the fruit and vegetables, always rinse them in water. It’s not just the organisms from meat that can contaminate them. You’ll also run the risk of various organisms that grow on the individual produce. Also, bear in mind that small local farmers won’t necessarily take the same restraints as larger producers to avoid any contamination.

If produce comes in a “ready to use” or “triple-rinsed” packaging, don’t rinse again. You risk contamination instead of avoiding it!

(Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Avoid washing meat and defrosting on the counter

When defrosting meat, make sure you cover it up and place it in the fridge. You’ll need to give it at least 12 hours to defrost in the fridge—24 hours for some—but it’s better than defrosting on the counter, especially in the summer. The heat will get into the meat and cause organisms to grow, contaminating your meat.

Likewise, the CDC now recommends not washing your meat or poultry in the sink! You spread the organisms across the surface and that leads to other foods becoming contaminated.

Do wash your hands though. Our hands pick up germs throughout the day. Even if you’re only cooking for yourself, you’ll need to wash your hands before preparation.

Prepare meat and produce separately

Have a chopping board and knife for your meat and another for your produce (even the produce you will cook). Sharing chopping boards and utensils is another way contamination takes place.

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If you can’t have separate items, always wash everything before switching between the two. You can prepare the produce and put it all on a plate or in bowls and then rinse the utensils for the meat.

Careful marinating and cooking

Finally, it’s all about the marinating and cooking. When you’re marinating anything, place it in the fridge. Never use the same marinade again, unless you boil it for 10 minutes first. Don’t use the marinade for a different type of meat or produce.

When cooking meat, you’ll need a thermometer to get the temperature just right to kill off the organisms. Poultry should be cooked the longest to reach 165F, ground meat needs to reach 160F, while finfish and pork need to reach 145F. When it comes to oysters, mussels, clams, and other shellfish, cook until the shells open and discard the shells that haven’t opened. As for other shellfish, cook until the flesh is opaque.

Next: 3 Tips to grill the perfect chicken for the summer

There are always going to be risks when cooking your own food. There are even more risks when eating out. However, you can minimize the risks with the above tips.