By Barbara Pronin
If you’ve ever had food poisoning, you know how unpleasant it can be. But you may not know how easy it is to put people at risk, even in your own home, and especially during warm weather.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers nine household tips for avoiding the food contamination that causes food poisoning and related illnesses:
- Wash your hands – Before you handle any food, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water. If you go handle raw meat, go to the toilet, or pause to play with pets, wash your hands again before you go back to food preparation.
- Keep work tops sanitary – Wash counter tops and cutting boards with soapy hot water or an antibacterial sanitizer before and after handling food, especially raw meat, fish, eggs, or veggies that have not yet been scrubbed.
- Wash cloths frequently – Damp, dirty dishcloths and hand towels are a perfect place for bacteria to breed. Wash and dry them after using before using them again.
- Keep raw meat separate – Raw meat can contaminate other foods, including fruits, salads and vegetables. Store it on the bottom shelf of the fridge, where it can’t drip onto other foods, and keep it separate from other foods during meal preparation.
- Use care with spoilable foods – Mayonnaise and eggs left unrefrigerated for long periods are a proven food poisoning danger. On picnics or in the backyard, keep them cool until consumed and/or throw away leftovers that may have warmed.
- Cook food thoroughly – Make sure meats and poultry are fully cooked through and piping hot when served, with little or no pink color showing.
- Cool leftovers quickly – Cool leftovers within 90 minutes of eating, and store in the fridge or freezer. Use refrigerated leftovers within two days.
- Keep your fridge cold – Bacteria can grow, even in the fridge, if the temperature is over 5 degrees Celsius or 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid keeping the doors open for long periods and check the temperature with a thermometer from time to time.
- Respect ‘use-by’ dates – Tests show how quickly bacteria can contaminate foods that are past their prime. Consume packaged and bottled goods by or before the use-by date to avoid possible problems.