Food poisoning is a sickness caused by consuming contaminated food. Food poisoning is not usually dangerous and most people get better within a couple of days without treatment.
A recent report from the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals nearly one in 10 people fall ill from eating contaminated food every year and a total of 420000 die as a result. The report also says that children under five years of age are at particularly high risk, 125000 children dying from foodborne diseases each year.
In India, food poisoning incidents are very common. Health authorities revealed that five persons of a family died of food poisoning last week in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, central India. The family had eaten bhajiya (a snack) before all of them fell ill. To ensure such incidents do not occur again, the authorities suggest people maintain high standards of personal and food hygiene when handling, storing and preparing food.
Here are top ten tips to reduce the risk of food poisoning at home.
1. Wash Your Hands Thoroughly
Keeping hands clean is one of the most effective measures we can take to avoid getting sick.
Wash your hands properly with soap and hot water, and dry them:
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before having food
- Before and after caring for somebody who is sick
- Before and after treating a wound
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers of a child
- After blowing your nose, sneezing, or coughing
- After touching an animal (including pet), animal feed, or animal waste
- After handling pet food or pet treats
- After touching garbage
- Wash your worktops
2. Clean Your Worktops
Clean your worktops and chopping boards before and after preparing food, particularly after they’ve been touched by raw meat, including raw eggs, fish, and poultry. You don’t need to wash your worktops with antibacterial sprays: hot, soapy water is fine.
3. Wash Dishcloths and Tea Towels
Wash dishcloths and tea towels daily and let them dry before you use them again. A recent research by safefood revealed that 27% of household dishcloths contain the raw meat bacteria E. coli.
The study suggests that washing kitchen dishcloths in a washing machine or boiling them in water for 15 minutes are the most effective ways to properly clean them. Soaking, washing in the dishwasher or washing under the tap just aren’t as effective. If you’ve used a dishcloth to wipe out raw meat juices, then you should replace it immediately with a clean one. And if there’s a noticeable or bad smell from your dishcloth, then it’s time to change it.
4. Use Separate Chopping Boards
When juices from raw meats touch ready-to-eat food such as fruits or salads or cooked food items, cross-contamination occurs. Raw foods can contain toxic bacteria that spread very quickly to anything they touch, including other foods, knives, chopping boards and worktops. To avoid cross-contamination, use two cutting boards: one strictly to cut raw meat, poultry, and seafood; the other for ready-to-eat foods, like bread and vegetables.
5. Keep Raw Meat Away From Ready to Eat Foods
It’s important to keep raw foods especially raw meat away from ready-to-eat foods. This is because ready-to-eat foods won’t be cooked before you eat them, so any bacteria that get on to the food items won’t be killed.
6. Never Put Meat on the Top Shelf
One of the leading causes of food poisoning is cross contamination. An example of this would be raw chicken, contaminated with the campylobacter bacteria, being placed on a fridge shelf above some salad. ‘The meat drips onto the salad, and while the chicken is later cooked thoroughly, which kills the bacteria, the contaminated salad is eaten raw. Raw meat must always be stored at the bottom of the fridge, where it can’t touch other foods or drip onto them.
7. Cook Food Thoroughly
Cook food thoroughly. Make sure poultry, sausages and pork are cooked until steaming hot, with no pink meat inside. Don’t wash raw meat including turkey and chicken before cooking, as the practice can spread bacteria around your kitchen.
8. Keep your Fridge Below 5C
Maintain your fridge temperature below 5C. You can stop food poisoning bacteria growing by storing the food at a lower temperature. You can use a fridge thermometer to verify that the temperature stays around 4 to 5°C. Also, ensure you have enough fridge space as fridges won’t work properly when they are overloaded.
9. Cool Leftovers Quickly
If you have cooked food that you’re not going to eat straight away, store it in the fridge or freezer as soon as possible. Also, remember to take the leftovers from the refrigerator within two days.
10. Respect ‘Use By’ Dates
Don’t eat food that’s passed its ‘use by’ date. ‘Use by’ dates are based on scientific examinations that show how quickly harmful bugs can grow in the packaged food.
While you control these issues at home, you are particularly susceptible to food poisoning when eating out. So choose your cafes and fast food outlets carefully.