Food poisoning – oh, those dreaded words. For anyone who has ever experienced the terrible side effects of food poisoning, the desire to steer clear of contaminated foods is strong. And as a parent, it’s up to you to ensure the food your family cooks and eats is both healthy and safe. That means introducing responsible food handling and cooking procedures into the kitchen.
Understanding Food Poisoning
While it’s relatively common in the United States, food poisoning should still be considered serious and dangerous. Tainted foods kill approximately 5,000 people each year and cause millions more to experience varying levels of sickness. More than 250 known diseases can cause food poisoning, with some of the most common forms including Camplybacter, Shigella, E. coli, Listeria, Campylobacter, norovirus, and botulism.
Food poisoning is not caused by the food you eat, but rather by the consumption of bacteria that’s attached itself to the food. Symptoms of food poisoning can range from mild diarrhea and nausea to serious vomiting, abdominal pain, and life-threatening fever.
Tips for Reducing Food Poisoning Risk in the Kitchen
While you can’t avoid food poisoning altogether, you can reduce your risk of consuming illness-inducing bacteria by following these helpful tips and responsible habits:
- Understand the conditions. In order for bacteria to grow on foods, the conditions must be right. The four conditions involved in the growth of bacteria are time, warmth, food, and water. According to Safefood, a single bacterium can multiply to two million in a matter of seven hours if exposed to temperatures between 41 degrees Fahrenheit and 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Bacteria also need moisture to grow, meaning wet foods are more likely to foster bacterial growth.
- Cook thoroughly. When cooking meat, it’s important to always monitor the internal temperature. Simply observing the color of the meat is not enough to make a sound judgment. Use this handy guide to determine the appropriate temperature for each type of raw meat you cook.
- Maintain proper temperature. Your refrigerator should be set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, while your freezer needs to be at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Any higher and food could begin to spoil.
- Wash fruits and veggies. Regardless of whether or not fruits and vegetables are advertised as pre-washed, you should wash them yourself before consuming. This is especially true for produce that will be eaten raw.
- Wash hands and worktops. Any time you’re preparing food, you should carefully wash your hands with warm water and soap. It’s also a good idea to wash any worktops you’ll be cooking on. If you happen to touch raw meat while cooking, always wash your hands before touching your face or any other utensils or ingredients.
- Pay attention to “use by” dates. You should pay careful attention to the “use by” dates on food. Even if it looks and smells fine, foods can still contain harmful bacteria after reaching their expiration date. Always follow the mantra of “better safe than sorry.”
How to Respond to Food Poisoning
If after following all of these responsible habits you still manage to contract food poisoning, you should treat the illness very seriously. Because diarrhea and vomiting are common symptoms, you’ll need to focus on rehydrating your body throughout the duration of the illness.
If symptoms don’t improve and signs of serious dehydration and elevated fever are present, it’s critical that you seek medical assistance. You should also attempt to identify the cause of your food poisoning and alert anyone that may come into contact with the same source.
Putting it All Together
Ultimately, reducing your risk of contracting food poisoning relies on appropriate education and the adoption of responsible food handling and cooking procedures. Make sure your entire family is aware of the risks and dangers and instill habits that put health and safety first.