SUMMER ALERT: 5 tips to avoid food poisoning

Many of just love to dine out, but sometimes bacteria and bacterial toxins come with the package


June 03, 2015

Many of just love to dine out, but sometimes bacteria and bacterial toxins come with the package as we are totally unaware of the hygiene standards being practiced by our favourite restaurants down the road.

But sometimes, fungus may also grow on our well prepared home-cooked food due to hot and humid temperatures, not to forget the peak of load-shedding during summers. These fungus and bacteria give rise to food-borne illnesses. So here are five tips to prevent food poisoning this summer, as compiled from organicauthority.com and yummymummyclub.ca.

1. Keep it clean

Perhaps the easiest way to avoid foodborne illnesses is to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Not only your hands, utensils and cutting boards should also be washed with warm water and soap, especially before handling meat or poultry. Cooking counters should be wiped with paper towels instead of sponge and dishcloths should be replaced quite often to prevent the spreading of bacteria. Vegetables and fruits should also be washed with cold water before consumption. Those with firm surfaces or rinds, such as, carrots, oranges, melons and potatoes, should be scrubbed before cutting. Bacteria usually reside in the damaged and bruised areas, so make sure that you cut them off.

2. Use separate cutting boards

Separate cutting boards must be used for meat and vegetables and overly used boards should be replaced regularly. Avoid using wooden boards as they are more prone to contamination. Utensils for raw meat should only be used for it. Keep another set for everything else. Also set aside knives, bowls, tongs, etc. for meat and vegetables. The main reason for that is to avoid cross-contamination.

3. Store properly

You should avoid putting cooked food in a dish which has previously stored raw food. Also, raw meat, poultry and seafood must be stored separately in the refrigerator.  To prevent juices leaking onto other foods, store plastic bags or sealed containers must be stored in the lowest rack of the fridge. Boil over the left over marinated sauce of raw meat, poultry or seafood for at least one minute before pouring onto cooked foods. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

4. Avoid easily spoilt foods

Mayonnaise or dairy-laden dishes are more prone to spoilage as compared to fresh fruits and raw veggies. That means no to your club sandwiches and burgers and yes to fresh salads. Also, eggs should be stored in refrigerators. Eat fresh meals cooked at right temperatures. Don’t let foods linger at temperatures where bacteria can multiply [4°C to 60°C]. Use a digital or instant red meat thermometer to ensure foods are cooked to a safe temperature. The safe temperature for ground beef is 71°C whereas for chicken it is 80°C, well done beef is 77°C while unstuffed whole chicken is 82°C.

5. Chill your food

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. You should store meat and vegetables in the refrigerator or even in cold water. The defrost option in microwave is a convenient way to use your products immediately. Refrigerate or freeze prepared food and leftovers within two hours. To keep foods safe in the fridge or freezer, make sure your fridge is set at 4°C or colder and the freezer at -18°C (0°F). Avoid overstuffing your fridge as cold air needs to circulate above and beneath food to keep it properly chilled. In hot weather don’t leave foods sitting out for more than one hour.

Compiled By: Alveena Abid 

Published in The Express Tribune, June 4th, 2015.

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