Five Steps to Avoid Food Poisoning
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in six Americans get sick each year from food-borne diseases, but the source of most food poisoning may surprise you. While many people assume restaurants with poor hygiene standards are usually to blame for food poisoning, that’s not the case. “It’s just as likely you’ll get sick from food you prepare in your own home,” Chhavi Mehta, M.D., a Mills-Peninsula internal medicine doctor, says.
More than 200 microbes can cause food poisoning, and they range from viral to bacterial in nature. Often called the stomach flu, norovirus, the most common viral cause, spreads quickly through infected food and water. Dangerous bacteria – including salmonella and E. coli – can arrive in food in a variety of ways, including through unsanitary food preparation, or accumulate due to hot temperatures or improper cooking methods.
“Foods that contain dangerous bacteria may not smell, look or even taste different,” Dr. Mehta says.
Here are five simple steps you can follow to keep your food safe:
- Clean Often. Wash your hands, countertops, cooking utensils and cleaning cloths frequently with hot, soapy water to kill germs. Rinse fruits and veggies under running water and use a vegetable brush to scrub edible skins. Don’t rinse meat or poultry.
- Store Separately. Meat, chicken, seafood and eggs should always be kept apart from other edible goods in your grocery cart, shopping bag and refrigerator. Use separate cutting boards or plates when preparing these foods.
- Cook Completely. Although you may think you know when your meat is safely cooked by looking at it, it’s impossible to be sure without using a food thermometer. Aim for 145° F for whole red meats, 160° F for ground meats and 165° F for poultry. Cook eggs until firm.
- Keep Food Cool. Put food in the fridge within two hours of preparing it. Make sure your refrigerator is set below 40° F.
- Respect “Use By” Dates. “When in doubt, throw it out,” Dr. Mehta says. “This is one of the best guidelines for avoiding food poisoning.”