Foodborne illnesses affect many people every year. Food poisoning can occur when foods are improperly cooked, handled or stored. Bacteria, viruses, parasites and toxins can cause food contamination. You can keep friends and family safe from food poisoning by following simple precautions.
Keep a clean kitchen
Cleanliness is key to preventing food poisoning. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before handling food. Rinse fruits and vegetables under running water to remove dirt and germs. Clean your kitchen counters, cutting boards, utensils and fridge door handles with soap and hot water.
It is crucial to separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from other foods, as they may carry bacteria.
Use a food thermometer
Cook food thoroughly to kill harmful bacteria and avoid food poisoning. A food thermometer can help you make sure your food cooks to a safe internal temperature. Some temperatures for common foods are:
• Whole cuts of meat: 145 degrees (then let rest for three minutes).
• Ground meats: 160 degrees.
• Poultry: 165 degrees.
• Casseroles: 165 degrees.
Store cooked food safely
Safe storage of food is an essential step to prevent food poisoning. Keeping food in the "danger zone" of 40 degrees to 140 degrees can cause rapid growth of harmful bacteria. Refrigeration preserves food by slowing down the growth of bacteria. Refrigerators should be at 40 degrees or below, and freezers should be below zero. A good rule is to refrigerate perishable foods within two hours of preparation.
Divide cooled leftovers into multiple shallow containers in the refrigerator to allow easier food cooling. Maintain your food's freshness with airtight storage containers or packaging.
Signs of food poisoning
Symptoms of food poisoning may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever. You might feel sick shortly after eating, but symptoms can appear even days later. You can visit your primary care provider if you have mild symptoms, but seek emergency medical care if you have:
• Bloody diarrhea or diarrhea that lasts more than three days.
• A fever over 102 degrees.
• Symptoms of dehydration (such as dizziness when standing up or a dry mouth).
• Intense vomiting that prevents you from keeping down liquids.
Cooking nutritious food is part of a healthy lifestyle. Make sure your family and friends are safe and healthy by keeping these food safety precautions in mind.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; EatRight.org; U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service