Millions of Americans get sick from foodborne illnesses every year, and thousands die. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent falling ill from food poisoning. While at home and dining out, here are seven ways you can minimize the risk of foodborne illness.
Raw meat, fish, and poultry can have harmful bacteria. While it can be cooked out for safe consumption, it’s important not to allow these foods to come into contact with other, ready-to-eat foods or their handling environments. Store your meat and fish separately from your produce, both at home and while grocery shopping. Use different knives and cutting boards when handling produce versus meat or fish, and wash your hands in between.
Check the Package
Food that’s past its expiration date is more likely to get you sick. Be mindful of the dates listed on the packages for perishable items, including how many days you have to use products after opening them. If anything seems off, such as taste, texture, odor, or color, play it safe and dispose of it. Never eat anything from a package with a broken seal or bulging container, as this could indicate the presence of harmful bacteria.
Boost Kitchen Cleanliness
Always start meal prep with freshly washed hands. Even if you’re just having a quick snack, it’s always a good idea to kill any germs with warm water and soap, or hand sanitizer in a pinch. Disinfect your countertops regularly, and pop your sponge in the microwave for two-minute intervals to kill any bacteria.
Wash Your Fruit & Vegetables
Using a clean produce brush, thoroughly rinse any fresh fruit or vegetables before cooking or consumption. Never use any cleaning agents or soaps on food, however, as doing so could get you sick. Avoid washing poultry, meat, or eggs, as doing so could cause bacteria to spread.
Store Foods at the Proper Temperature
Keep your freezer at 0 degrees F, and your refrigerator at 40 degrees F. Always get perishable items in the refrigerator as soon as possible after coming home from the grocery store. Many condiments, such as mayonnaise, must also be refrigerated.
Be Cautious When Dining Out
Although restaurants must serve safe food to their patrons, missteps can still happen. Try to avoid any foods which could have raw egg, such as Caesar salad dressing, as the ingredient may harbor salmonella. Dine-in restaurants that have received satisfactory ratings from the board of health, and don’t eat anything that seems undercooked or spoiled. Make sure any leftovers are refrigerated within two hours to prevent them from spoiling.
Practice Road Trip Safety
If you’re packing perishable food for a long trip, be sure to keep it safely stored in a cooler with ice packs. Also, keep it in the cabin of the car with the air conditioning on if the weather is warm, instead of in the trunk.
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