We’ve all experienced that worrisome sensation that something just isn’t right in our stomach.
Millions of people suffer from food poisoning each year. It’s usually caused by eating food contaminated with bacteria such as salmonella, listeria, campylobacter or E. coli. Symptoms vary in severity, and can take up to a few hours to appear and may last several days.
Common signs of food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, headaches and fever. In severe cases, food poisoning can be fatal.
FOOD POISONING CAN BE CAUSED BY…
- Not cooking the food thoroughly enough to destroy harmful bacteria that rapidly grow over time.
- Storing foods at temperatures where bacteria can multiply.
- Someone with an illness handling the food or having poor hand hygiene.
- Consuming food that’s beyond the expiration date or that’s been stored in the fridge for too long.
- Contamination, where bacteria are spread from raw foods to cooked.
FOODS TO WATCH
Some foods are more susceptible to contamination than others and are considered hazardous. While many of these are common in households, particular care must be used to ensure there safe handling. Examples of these foods include:
- Cooked rice and pasta.
- Meat, especially raw and under cooked (rare).
- Raw chicken and turkey.
- Raw or lightly cooked eggs, including mayonnaise made of raw eggs or mayonnaise that’s unpasteurized.
- Pre-made salads, especially those with a mayonnaise base such as coleslaw or potato salad.
- Unpasteurized dairy products.
How you keep food plays an important role in keeping bacteria at bay. Follow these tips and you should be bug free.
- You can freeze pretty much everything, including yoghurt, cheese (except soft cheese as the freezing process affects the texture), milk, meat, fish, eggs, including boiled eggs, bananas (peel and wrap them or place in an airtight container before freezing), baked goods, rice, even bread.
- Keep fridge temperature at or below 5C.
- Pack groceries into the fridge as soon as you bring them home.
- Freeze raw meat, chicken and fish if not being used within 24 hours.
- Store raw meat on the bottom shelf away from vegetables and salad items.
- Regularly check expiry dates on packaged food.
- Refrigerate or freeze leftovers immediately after the meal. Cool hot food before you place it in the freezer otherwise the center won’t freeze and bacteria may grow. Divide into smaller containers to help chill.
- Perishable leftovers in the fridge should be consumed within two to three days.
- Finally, when in doubt, throw it out.
- Always wash your hands thoroughly before touching food.
- Thaw frozen food in the fridge — not on the kitchen bench.
- Defrost meat and fish thoroughly before cooking – lots of liquid will come out as meat thaws, so stand it in a bowl to stop bacteria in the juice spreading to other things.
- Defrost meat or fish in a microwave if you intend to cook straight away, or if not, defrost in the fridge overnight so it doesn’t get too warm.
- Cook food until it’s steaming hot throughout.
- Use color-coded chopping boards to ensure raw meats are handled separately from fresh food.
- Use hot water to clean utensils and chopping boards.
- Regularly wash or replace your kitchen sponge or cloth, as this is the perfect place for bacteria to live.
Don’t throw away leftovers – they could be tomorrow’s lunch! Follow these tips to make the most of them.
- Cool leftovers as quickly as possible, ideally within two hours.
- Divide leftovers into individual portions and refrigerate or freeze.
- Use refrigerated leftovers within two days.
- When reheating food, make sure it is heated until it reaches a temperature of 70C for two minutes, so that it is steaming hot throughout.
- Always defrost leftovers completely, either in the fridge or in the microwave.
- When defrosted, food should be reheated only once, because the more times you cool and reheat food, the higher the risk of food poisoning.
- Cooked food that has been frozen and removed from the freezer should be reheated and eaten within 24 hours of fully defrosting.
- Foods stored in the freezer, such as ice cream and frozen desserts, should not be returned to the freezer once they have thawed.
- For safety and to reduce waste, only take out of the freezer what you intend to use within the next 24 hours.
- Store items, such as frozen fruit and frozen water bottles, inside an insulated lunchbox pack.
- Use a vacuum food jar to keep soups and reheated leftovers hot, or sushi, drinks and chilled salads icy cold.
- Regularly wipe out the insulated bags, especially around seams.
- Take special note that a US study found that some school lunchboxes had as much bacteria as you’d expect to find in a train station toilet.