According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated one in six Americans gets sick every year from eating contaminated food. This can happen if food is not cooked thoroughly, not stored correctly, or is left out for too long. At Richmond University Medical Center, we want to make sure people enjoy food safely. Here are four tips to help prevent food poisoning:
The best way to avoid food poisoning is to make sure you are washing and cleaning thoroughly before, during, and after cooking your foods. Germs that cause food poisoning can survive and thrive in many places around your kitchen. Washing your hands, cooking equipment, and food products can help to kill these germs.
Before beginning any cooking, always make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. You should also wash your workspace and utensils after preparing your food, especially if they have been in contact with raw meat, eggs, or fish. It is also recommended to wash your fruits and vegetables with warm water to rinse away chemicals or bacteria before eating them.
Another important component in preventing food poisoning is to separate your foods when preparing and storing them to avoid cross-contamination. You should separate foods in the following scenarios:
- When grocery shopping, be sure to keep raw meat and poultry in a separate area of your shopping cart and bagging them separately from other foods.
- When cooking, use different cutting boards and plates for raw meat and other foods.
- When storing food, keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate in the fridge. It is also important to keep ready-to-eat foods, like fruit and bread, separated since they will not be cooked to kill any bacteria before you eat them.
Cook Food Thoroughly
You must cook food completely to kill harmful germs that can cause food poisoning. You want to make sure your meat is always cooked until steaming hot, with no pink meat inside. However, just looking at the color and temperature of your meat is not enough to tell if it is cooked correctly. The only way to tell if food is safely cooked is to use a food thermometer to check whether the product has reached a safe internal temperature that is hot enough to kill germs.
Refrigerate Foods Properly
Storing and refrigerating foods properly and promptly helps to prevent food poisoning. Keep these refrigerator rules in mind when putting your food away:
- Cool leftovers quickly and put away promptly (within two hours).
- Keep your refrigerator at 40°F or below to prevent harmful germs from growing.
- Thaw frozen food in the refrigerator, not on the counter, because bacteria can multiply more quickly at room temperature.
- Do not overfill your fridge because air will not circulate properly and can affect the temperature.
- Eat any leftovers within two days.
- Do not eat food that is past its use-by date, even if it looks alright.