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How to Prevent Food Poisoning

26 July 2021

One time or another in our life or travel, we enjoy so much delectable food and think less about anything else. Who doesn’t love food? It nourishes our body; it is enjoyable to do with friends and family, and it has a very relaxing effect on the body. As that snicker commercial goes, we are grumpy, we cannot be ourselves, our headache develops when we get hungry.

So it is also a mood stabilizer and a necessity to our everyday life. Apart from that, there are a wide array of illnesses we could prevent with proper nutrition especially if paired with fitness activities.

Some foods are good for the heart, some are good for gut health and some even prevent deterioration of brain activity and improve our memory. Also, healthy bones and teeth are attributed to proper nutrition and similarly with a good night’s sleep. You can sleep well without interruption with proper nutrition. Food is primary in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and it is for so many good reasons.

However, as with all things, there are also exceptions to the rule.

One thing that we have to remember with food is to consume it in moderation and also to prepare it clean and safe. In the United States, the CDC or Center for Disease Control estimates that food of both known and unknown pathogens make up for 47.8 million people getting ill every year. 

That also includes 127,839 hospitalizations and 3,037 deaths. That said, you don’t really need to travel to have food poisoning when food is not prepared safely locally and at home. That is apart from extreme consumption behaviors such as teenagers eating tide pods.

Salmonella, Listeria, Norovirus, and Toxoplasma caused the most deaths via food poisoning.

Salmonella is a bacteria that lives in animal and human intestines and is pushed out of the body through feces. Listeria on the other hand is a bacterium found in moist places, soil, water, decaying animals, and vegetation. Apart from that, this can also grow and survive in refrigeration and other food preservation methods.

A group of viruses that can cause gastroenteritis is called a norovirus or winter bug. It is very contagious and easy to spread on surfaces, contaminated food, and people. Lastly, toxoplasma is a parasitic protozoan that lives in all warm-blooded animals, but the most definitive host for this is domestic cats where they can reproduce.

In the statistics gathered by the CDC, it has been found that 46% of the food-borne illnesses are caused by norovirus from leafy vegetables that were not properly washed, cooked, or separated from other food to limit contamination. Meat and poultry have caused fewer illnesses, but ironically they have caused 29% of deaths by food poisoning. Just the act of washing poultry does not guarantee the removal of the salmonella bacteria. Meat should be cooked at the proper temperature to do so. In their findings, 165 degrees Fahrenheit is safe for poultry like chicken, duck, turkeys, and others. 

On the other hand, for whole meat like steak, the recommended cooking temperature is 145 degrees Fahrenheit. The meat should be allowed to rest for three minutes before carving and consuming. For ground meat, like the ones used for spaghetti a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit is needed to ensure safety for consumption.                                                                                               

There are a lot of things you could do to keep your food safe from contamination.

One of these is washing your hands well. During the pandemic, fortunately, this has become a standard procedure while going in and out of the house and touching things and surfaces outside the home or from outside the home.

Apart from these situations, one must also wash the hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling any type of food. After handling raw food like meat, vegetables, fish, and eggs one must also wash the hands. If you have pets and have touched them, the garbage bin, went to the toilet, or blew your nose the hands must be thoroughly washed before touching any food or eating.

Just as we wash our hands, it is also good to make sure that the utensils we use for cooking and eating are clean. Hot soapy water is recommended especially for knives, worktops, and other utensils. The anti-bacterial spray is not really needed when you have hot soapy water.

This is important to remember when you have cooked, poultry, meat, fish, eggs, and vegetables. Since there are sprays and wax used in some fruits it is a good habit to wash them. Dishcloths must also be washed regularly as it is used in proximity to food and where we prepare it.

Separation is also a great way to prevent food poisoning.

Separate chopping boards for raw meat and fish, and fruits and vegetables will help in avoiding cross-contamination. Ready-to-eat food must always be kept separate from raw meat. The reason for this is that ready-to-eat food, for example, salads, side dishes, sushi, and the like would not be cooked anymore so bacteria would not be killed before consumption.

Also, when refrigerating, always have raw meat covered and stored on the bottom shelf so that they would not drip into the other food in your fridge. The fridge should be kept at 5C or below. The bacteria in chicken would not die of refrigeration so the best way to kill it is by thoroughly cooking it.

Harmful bugs can develop quickly in packaged food. So, it's recommended to consume them before the expiration date. When you are at the office or at home, eating or taking a break at your station would not be avoided.

This is especially true when you are slumped with a high volume of work and don’t have time to eat out or go to the cafeteria. A hardworking asset deserves the best whether in food or workspace. 

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