Protecting Yourself Against
by Patty Liston
It happens more often than we believe. A great meal in a restaurant, at a friend’s home, or our own, and 3-6 hours later, you are in bed sicker than you have ever felt before.
Quite often, what passes as a 24 hour “bug”, is food poisoning. With more people than ever eating out, the likelihood of contaminating our system due to bacteria, toxins, viruses, and lack of personal hygiene, (ours or “theirs”), we felt it was important to share some important information.
Remember that food poisoning can come in many forms—from mildly uncomfortable, to fever and sweats, to hospitalization. Keep this information in your kitchen for reference. Most of this material was taken from on-line articles, the National Food and Drug Administration, and the Center for Disease Control.
that there are several main events that can cause food contamination:
Food growing: The use of chemicals, fertilizers, manures etc. all have the potential to contaminate food as it is being grown. Never hold an expectation that an item is washed before it leaves the farm.
Environmental factors: Bacteria, parasites etc. travel happily in the wind, float in the water, hitch lifts with dust and reside snugly in the soil. They are a part of nature's web of life and will always be a possible source of contamination if not dealt with appropriately as part of a consistent and dedicated approach to food hygiene.
Food processing: Whether in a large factory or in your own kitchen, food processing can be a major source of contamination. Areas used for processing need to be kept scrupulously clean or cross-contamination can easily occur, especially with meat products (natural bacteria residing in the intestines of animals are a major source of cross-contamination when mishandled).
Food storage: Food that is stored incorrectly, for instance an uncooked chicken thigh resting next to a bunch of grapes, can be a source of transferring bacteria and other contaminants from one food to another. This is a very tricky area because often people don't think that some foods could be a source of contamination but are unaware that cross-contamination has occurred.
Food preparation: A great deal of food contamination occurs during the preparation stage. A sick person can pass on germs, from 'flu to gastroenteritis. A chopping board used for meat that is not washed and then used for vegetables is another source of possible contamination. Unwashed hands, dirty kitchen spaces, insects and rodents in the kitchen etc. are all possible sources of food contamination.
2. Know what to do to prevent food contamination. Handling, storing and preparing foods are the most important areas to tackle in order to reduce the possibility of food contamination causing human illness. The other important preventive measure is paying attention to the conditions of food and food service hygiene when you eat out.
1. Shop with care. Make sure meat and poultry are bagged separately (remember the cross contamination!) Refrigerate items immediately upon returning home.
Always wash your hands before and after preparing foods. Wash with hot, soapy water. Keep dish cloths and hand towels regularly cleaned.
2. Keep your kitchen clean. Use a mild solution of water and soap to clean your counters, cutting boards and utensils.
3. Use separate chopping boards for preparing raw meat and poultry. Keep these boards separate to avoid any possibility of cross-contamination of bacteria from meat to other food products. If you cannot keep separate chopping boards, make sure to clean a multi-purpose chopping board thoroughly - it should be disinfected (see bleach recipe in "Tips").
4. Keep foods separated. At all times, keep raw meat, raw eggs and poultry away from cooked food, fresh fruits and vegetables.
5. Cook foods thoroughly, especially red meat, poultry and eggs. Cooking these foods all the way through will destroy harmful germs. Consult a cookbook and use a meat thermometer if you have any doubts about how long to cook something.
6. Keep hot foods hot (65°C/ 149ªF) and cold foods cold (4°C/ 40ºF). You should make sure your fridge is set at a temperature of 4°C/ 40°F or less.
7. Reheat leftovers thoroughly before serving. Leftovers that have been reheated poorly can still contain active food pathogens. Moreover, if leftovers have gone bad, no amount of reheating will make them safe. Any signs of discoloration, sliminess, growth of mold etc. are signals to discard or compost the leftovers. Do not keep leftovers for long.
Never reheat leftovers more than once and never refreeze food without changing its state! i.e. you can freeze raw food, defrost the raw food, cook the food, refreeze the cooked food, defrost/reheat the cooked food. If the reheated cooked food is left over. Throw it away or there is a very high chance of getting sick!
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