January 19, 2018
One moment you’re in the buffet line loading your plate up with all your favorites…then, all of a sudden, it hits you out of nowhere. You break out in a sweat and begin heaving and shivering simultaneously before the stomach cramps begin. If you’ve ever had food poisoning, you know just how unpleasant this experience can be.
My first (and only) brush with food poisoning turned me into a nitpicky, worrying food-a-phobe. Just the sight of a buffet or food warming in a slow-cooker is enough to give me flashbacks. And I’ve become a complete food safety fanatic when cooking for family and friends!
Basically, the way you get food poisoning is by consuming food that has been contaminated with a variety of germs or toxic substances. And there are so many of them! There’s a veritable alphabet soup of sickness, and it’s all waiting for you to let down your guard. OK…that’s a bit extreme (until you remember I was traumatized by a tainted buffet). But, it is important to be alert to food safety risks and keep your eyes open for potential problems.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common germs that cause food poisoning are Norovirus, Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, and Campylobacter. And, luckily, there are some food safety guidelines you can follow to help protect yourself from all of them.
The best way to protect yourself from foodborne germs is to keep your hands, kitchen surfaces, and cooking utensils clean. Germs can survive in many places around your kitchen, including on your hands, utensils, and cutting boards. Here’s a great source for clean-up tips — there’s even a video!
Always rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water…and I don’t mean just a quick rinse. Thoroughly rinsing your produce not only rids it of dirt and pesticides (because nobody wants to eat those), it also helps reduce the risk of transmitting E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella. Follow these tips to be sure you get it right.
Uncooked meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can spread and contaminate other foods they touch. That’s why it’s important to separate them even after you’ve cleaned your hands and surfaces thoroughly.
Use a food thermometer to ensure that foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature. The rule of thumb is 145°F for whole meats (allowing the meat to rest for three minutes before carving or consuming), 160°F for ground meats, and 165°F for all poultry, but this Safe Minimum Temperature Chart breaks it down for each type of meat.
Germs can grow quickly — in less than two hours — unless food is refrigerated. It happens even faster in the summer heat, so don’t leave food out too long. Keep your refrigerator below 40°F. And, remember, freezing keeps food safe until you can cook it, but it doesn’t destroy harmful bacteria. When it’s time to defrost that frozen food, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends using the microwave or thawing in the fridge or in cold water.
Symptoms of food poisoning include upset stomach, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and dehydration. They may range from mild to severe. For most healthy people, the symptoms pass within several hours or several days. But you should always talk to your doctor if you have concerns.
This article was originally published on IBX Insights.
As content development manager at IBX, I have the good luck to work with a team of talented, smart people who share my interest in health, fitness, and nutrition. Recently, I completed my first half marathon and set a personal record in running this year’s Blue Cross Broad Street Run.