My Best tips to avoid Food Poisoning

Does it seem like every week, sometimes even several times a week we are having food recalls?
Salmonella, Hepatitis, E-Coli….. it it getting harder and harder to avoid food poisoning!
Not to mention the increasing incidence of food allergies and intolerance!

Food borne illnesses can be caused by bacteria, viruses and/or parasites. They can also be caused by toxins produced by any of these issues. Sometimes, the symptoms of food poisoning manifest almost immediately and other times they may need an incubation period of hours, days or even weeks to months before we begin to feel the effects.

They may produce vomiting, nausea, fever, abdominal pain or cramping and watery stool. 
Some cases are mild and will self resolve but others may be life threatening and require immediate medical attention.

No form of food poisoning or food borne illness is pleasant, that’s for certain!

Thankfully, there are many ways to minimize the danger by taking the following precautions:

Cleanliness:
This is the most obvious one. All of us were told as children (hopefully) that the kitchen and bathroom are the most important rooms in the house and should be kept clean and sanitized.
Filling the sink with hot, soapy water whenever we are preparing food is a handy way to help keep our hands and work surfaces clean before, during and after preparing each item on the menu.
Use separate cutting boards for produce and animal products, and clean with soap and water between each use.

Cross Contamination:
This can happen when we store raw meat, fish or poultry above produce. The liquids can leak and drip down, contaminating other foods stored below.
Making it a rule to store animal products on the bottom shelf in the fridge can go a long way towards prevention. Using a plate or paper towel under fresh meats can also help keep the juices from puddling up and reaching other products during storage.
Any fruits or veggies stored should either be on a higher shelf or in a drawer with the humidity set to be appropriate for that type of produce. Maintaining proper venting in the drawers will keep the juicier fruits and veggies from dehydrating too quickly.

Proper ‘Done’ temperatures:

Cooking food to the proper temperature is very important. Here is a link to reliable Food Safety site where each is listed.

Proper storage after cooking:
Be sure to refrigerate or freeze leftover foods promptly. Never leaved foods out more then 1-2 hours, the warmer the kitchen the sooner that foods needs to be put away!

Defrost your food safely:
The best way to safely defrost frozen food is to allow it to slowly defrost in the fridge. Second best is to use the defrost setting on the microwave and then cook promptly. Cold water thawing is okay as long as the package is sealed and cold water is changed often. Leaving it on the counter or using warm water and/or allowing the cold water to get warm is never a good idea!

Store food at proper temperatures:
We keep a food thermometer in the fridge to be sure the temp is kept at a steady 40 degrees F and at zero degrees F in the freezer.
It might be necessary to adjust the settings during different seasons or extreme temperatures. If there is a power outage, resist opening the fridge; this is the most likely way to lose the safe temperature. An empty fridge or freezer will heat up quicker, when it is filled the temp holds a lot longer.
If you have even the slightest doubt, throw it out!
Bad bacteria grows on/in poorly kept food very quickly and may be undetectable as far as taste or appearance, so don’t take chances!

Immune Health and unpasteurized food:

Generally, very young and very old people have undeveloped or compromised immune systems. They and anyone with weak or compromised immune function should avoid the following foods:
1- Raw meats, fish and shellfish
2- Raw or under cooked eggs
3- Unpasteurized juices and milk products including soft cheeses
4- Pate’s and meat spreads
5- Uncooked deli meats and hot dogs

When traveling:
Be sure to use well iced coolers, insulated bags and check to replace melted ice promptly. Wash or sanitize your hands before eating.

We can’t avoid every possible source of food poisoning, but by following these tips we can greatly reduce the chances  of it happening to us or to our loved ones.

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