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Ways to Prevent Food Poisoning: 15 Tips

Updated on August 15, 2013
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Vespa's recipes have appeared in "Midwest Living" & "Taste of Home" magazines. She belongs to "Cook's Recipe Testers" for Cooks Illustrated.

salmonella invading human cells
salmonella invading human cells

Is Your Food Safe?

Wracked with severe body aches and abdominal cramps, my temperature soared. I vomited so frequently that I quickly became dehydrated. Far from medical facilities and desperate, I had to be injected with an antiemetic medication. Relief at last! After a course of antibiotics and a week's bed rest I finally recovered from my terrible bout with Salmonella, one of many species of bacteria that cause food poisoning. However, other victims are not so fortunate. Was my case an isolated incident?

In 2011, an outbreak of E. coli linked to contaminated vegetables killed 23 people and sent over 2,000 to hospitals in Germany and Sweden. Not long afterward, an E. coli outbreak in the United States caused several deaths, including the death of a 20-month-old child in Wisconsin after the patient developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a severe complication of E. coli which can lead to kidney failure. Ten percent of these patients survive with long-term kidney damage which eventually may lead to dialysis or transplant. According to the CDC, there were 33 million cases of food-borne disease, or food poisoning, and more than 9,000 deaths caused by it in 2011.

Clearly, food safety is an issue which concerns us all. How can we protect ourselves and our loved ones? In theory, food poisoning is 100% preventable. Fifteen simple precautions may save your life:


Shop

1. Shop for non-perishable items first. Purchase hot prepared food, frozen food or raw meat just before returning home.

2. Purchase fresh food when possible. If you shop at an open air market, choose fresh fruits and vegetables which are undamaged with intact skins. Openings in peels and rinds can allow entry of dangerous bacteria. Purchase meat slaughtered that day and make sure it is free of strange odors. If shopping in a supermarket, purchase foods with undamaged packaging. Check expiration dates and don’t buy any food that has expired, even if it looks or tastes fine. It can still make you sick.

3. Regularly wash out reusable shopping bags with soap and hot water. Carry raw meat and fish in separate bags so as not to contaminate other food. If it will take longer than 30 minutes to arrive home, put chilled or frozen foods in an insulated bag or find some other way to keep them cool.


Clean

4. Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching food and after using the toilet.

5. Keep your kitchen clean. Change dishcloths frequently and use hot soapy water or disinfectant to clean kitchen surfaces. Even if you are living in a poor country, there is no reason to skimp on soap and water.

6. Rinse produce: Use running tap water and a soft brush to scrub away dirt and grime from potatoes and other vegetables or fruits, even if you are going to peel it. Remove and discard the outermost leaves of lettuce or cabbage. Fill a sink or tub with water and vinegar or a commercial washing solution (see Amazon capsule below) and soak produce for several minutes to remove traces of pesticide and bacteria.

7. Prevent cross-contamination by separately wrapping and storing all raw meat, poultry and seafood.


Source

Prepare & Store

8. Avoid preparing food for others if you have a diarrheal illness.

9. Avoid cross-contamination by using separate cutting boards for raw meat, poultry and seafood. Wash hands, utensils and cutting boards that have come in contact with raw meat before they touch other food.

10. Do not thaw meat at room temperature. Instead, thaw food in the refrigerator, microwave or submerged in cold water in a package that will not leak.

11. Cook food thoroughly. Be sure food reaches a temperature of at least 158 degrees Fahrenheit for 70 degrees Celsius. Use a meat thermometer if unsure.

12. Avoid foods that contain raw milk or eggs. Heat raw milk to 161 Fahrenheit or 72 Celsius for 20 seconds to kill dangerous bacteria such as Brucella or Listeria.

13. Serve soon. Cooked food should not be left at room temperature for too long. Keep hot food hot and cold food cold.

14. Refrigerator leftover foods that will not be eaten within 4 hours.

15. Do not store leftovers in the refrigerator for more than 3 or 4 days.


Why Purchase a Vegetable Wash?

Washes such as Fit and Environne are said to kill 99.9% of harmful bacteria and remove 98% more pesticides than just rinsing under cold, running water. The washes also remove waxes and oils and leave no aftertaste.

I highly recommend Citrus Magic, which most closely resembles the product I use here in Peru. It is 100% natural and highly concentrated, so it lasts longer than the other washes. For more than just cleaning produce, Citrus Magic can also be used to disinfect dishcloths and kitchen surfaces.

Good health to you!


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Which of these precautions do you take?

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  • vespawoolf profile image
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    vespawoolf 3 years ago from Peru, South America

    Well, according to what research I've done, these veggie washes are safe. We use grapefruit seed extract. It destroys only harmful bacteria and none of the beneficial bacteria in our bodies. I do think U.S. consumers need to be more aware of vegetable washes and the protection it provides from harmful substances found on fresh produce.

  • Au fait profile image

    C E Clark 3 years ago from North Texas

    Are you certain a vegetable wash is safe? Safer than the stuff a person is washing off the vegetables (pesticides, wax, etc.)? I ask because even natural substances can be poisonous or dangerous and I don't know what the ingredients of the vegetable wash are.

    Agree that many people do not know how to handle and store food properly and this article is a must read for everyone because everyone needs to know these things to protect themselves and their families from food borne illnesses.

  • vespawoolf profile image
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    vespawoolf 3 years ago from Peru, South America

    PeggyW, thanks for coming by!

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

    Good information. Will pin this to my health board. Thanks!

  • vespawoolf profile image
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    vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

    Sarahshuihan, we have been successful using red wine vinegar and water to disinfect veggies, but I don't know the exact ratio of water:vinegar. Here in Peru, we often use grapefruit seed extract since it's easy to find and not too expensive. I've also used bleach in a pinch, although that's not my preference. Thank you for taking the time to come by and leave a comment.

  • vespawoolf profile image
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    vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

    healthwealthmusic, I'm glad you're paranoid about proper food handling. It really is so important to our overall health and yet many people don't know a lot about it. I really appreciate the votes and meaningful comment.

  • sarahshuihan profile image

    Sarah 4 years ago from USA

    Very useful tips! I hear soaking fruit in a sink full of water and vinegar can replace the use of the vegetable/fruit wash.

  • healthwealthmusic profile image

    Ruth R. Martin 4 years ago from Everywhere Online ~ Fingerlakes ~ Upstate New York

    Good hub on an important topic! I have always been a bit paranoid, if you will, about taking care of food properly. It may be partly because my Mom taught me well and stressed the importance of it. I am horrified at the way some people take care of food, leaving leftovers sitting out on the counter for hours after a meal.... not being in a hurry to get groceries put away in the refrigerator/freezer... not washing a cutting board with soap after cutting raw meat on it, etc.

    Voted up & Useful!

  • vespawoolf profile image
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    vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

    Rajan jolly, I'm glad you enjoyed re-reading this article on preventing food poisoning. Thanks for the vote and share!

  • rajan jolly profile image

    Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

    Enjoyed reading it again. These are invaluable points to keep bacteria at bay and getting infected by them. Voted up and shared.

  • vespawoolf profile image
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    vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

    GlennStok, thanks for taking the time to read and comment! Living in Peru has made us even more aware of contaminants and kitchen hygiene. I'm glad you found this information useful.

  • Glenn Stok profile image

    Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY

    Very well written with loads of useful information. I usually do wash my vegetables but I don't always if I'm going to peel apples or potatoes. After reading your hub I realize that any contaminants can still get in when you peel. So now I know better. Thanks.

  • vespawoolf profile image
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    vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

    Yes JayeWisdom, we don't quickly forget food poisoning. Neglecting safety guidelines is risky these days. Thanks for the vote and share!

  • JayeWisdom profile image

    Jaye Denman 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

    Excellent hub on a very important topic. It pays to take care when buying, transporting, storing and handling food. I think anyone who ever suffered a bout of food poisoning will agree. Voted Up++ and shared.

  • vespawoolf profile image
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    vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

    Johndnathan, it's hard to forget a bout of food poisoning. And while travelng? That's the worse! One time we ate out in a restaurant here in Peru, right before taking an 18 hour bus ride to Cusco. We were up all night vomiting in those tiny bus bathrooms, which are like airplane bathrooms...neither hygienic nor roomy. I'll never forget that! Food safety is sooo important. Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  • vespawoolf profile image
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    vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

    Moonlake, mayonnaise is a real culprit when it comes to food poisoning since it spoils quickly. I'm sorry to hear about your daughter! And it's too bad it happened on a day the family was all together, but I guess that has its upside since you were there to take care of her. I could have included a lot more information about eating out. It is important to choose restaurants that have a reputation for cleanliness. Food poisoning is more common than we realize!

  • johndnathan profile image

    John D Nathan 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas. USA

    Great hub.

    While I live in Dallas, Texas and we are pretty clean with our food safety standards I did come down with a bit of food poisoning about 18 months ago. I'm a hearty person. I don't get sick, so this was a complete surprise to me. Worse yet I had taken the bus to work, so for my trip home I was partially dehydrated waiting in 90 degree weather in direct sunlight. Good times!

  • moonlake profile image

    moonlake 4 years ago from America

    We got food poisoning one time from the grocery store potato salad never bought it again in any store make my own.

    Thanksgiving Day our daughter came in all happy and pretty much well we had all had the upper respirator sickness. She all at once started feeling bad then she vomited and vomited. It was hard to figure out what was wrong, was her medication causing it, did she have food poisoning or was it a stomach virus. It ended up being a stomach virus plus the doctor changed her meds just in case. It was terrible. She eats out a lot so I always worry about her.

    Great hub full of good information. Voted up and shared.

  • vespawoolf profile image
    Author

    vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

    Don Bobbitt, I'm glad you found this hub to be useful. Food poisoning happens every day all over the world, and sometimes we don't even know what hit us! Thank you for taking the time to comment and share with your followers.

  • Don Bobbitt profile image

    Don Bobbitt 4 years ago from Ruskin Florida

    Fantastic Hub. I am so glad that someone wrote these important tips down about foods for everyone to read.

    We all see these tips, individually in a lot of places, and most of us use them (most of the time) but you have pulled them together so well that I am going to share this one with my followers, immediately.

    Again, great hub, on an important subject!

  • vespawoolf profile image
    Author

    vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

    RajanJolly, unfortunately we've suffered through several bouts both in the US and in Peru. It would be wonderful to be able to completely avoid food poisoning! Thank you for the share.

  • rajan jolly profile image

    Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

    Fine and useful tips here vespawoolf. Been through food poisoning a few times so I know how bad it is. Thanks for sharing. Sharing this useful hub.

  • vespawoolf profile image
    Author

    vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

    Nifwlseirff, thank you for the egg tip. We call that method "coddling" and use it when making uncooked ice cream custards that will be frozen in a machine. I know what you mean about food poisoning! It's a common problem in Peru, especially for those of us who aren't used to the environment. Japan has a reputation for cleanliness, so I'm surprised about the food poisoning from school lunches. Thank you for taking the time to write a meaningful comment and congratulations on graduating from the Apprenticeship Program! What an accomplishment.

  • nifwlseirff profile image

    Kymberly Fergusson 5 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

    You can pasteurize your own eggs at home, reducing the risk when using them raw - hold an egg in 140F (60C) water for 4 minutes or more. The heat kills the bacteria but doesn't cook the egg.

    Also washing eggs before cooking can remove contaminants that stick to the shell, making it safer when you crack it open to use it.

    I regularly got bouts of food poisoning from school lunches in Japan -- unfortunately it was difficult to keep the food at a high enough temperature between cooking and serving. Not the most pleasant part of my teaching position in Japan!

  • vespawoolf profile image
    Author

    vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

    Alocsin, that's a good point. We have a rule at our house. As soon as we walk in the door, it's straight to the sink for a good handwashing. It really does make a difference and I think it keeps us healthy, as well. Thanks for your comment and vote!

  • alocsin profile image

    alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

    Excellent advice and I think the biggie here is washing. There's a reason that restaurants force their employees to wash their hands constantly. This is especially important when you've just come from outside (whether work or shopping), since you never know what germs lie on surfaces you've touched. Voting this Up and Useful.

  • vespawoolf profile image
    Author

    vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

    RedElf, a vegetable wash is necessary here in Peru as dangerous bacteria is a frequent problem. We use a wash that contains mostly grapefruit seed extract, which I consider a safe option. Thank you for commenting!

  • RedElf profile image

    RedElf 5 years ago from Canada

    Voted up and awesome! I haven't used a vegetable wash as we are very careful in prepping fruits and vegetable for storage, but it is certainly something to consider,

  • vespawoolf profile image
    Author

    vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

    Thank you, Peggy W, for your comment. I never used the veggie cleaning products until moving to Peru, and I do find them very effective in ridding my produce of dangerous bacteria. Thank you for sharing, too!

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

    These are great pointers for staying healthy when it comes to purchasing, preparing, eating and storing food. About the only thing that I have never done is to use the products such as Citrus Magic that you recommended. I should probably do that as well. Voted interesting, useful and will share this informative hub with others. Thanks!

  • vespawoolf profile image
    Author

    vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

    Thoughtforce, it is important to look after our health and eat clean, uncontaminated food. Thank you for commenting and I'm glad you enjoyed the information.

  • thougtforce profile image

    Christina Lornemark 5 years ago from Sweden

    Good hub with great information and sound advice! It is so important to do what we can and take precautions to avoid contamination but without exaggeration. This is a great hub! Useful and interesting!

    Tina

  • vespawoolf profile image
    Author

    vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

    Naomi R. Cox, thank you for commenting. Yes, food safety is an important topic and one that affects us all!

  • Naomi R. Cox profile image

    Naomi R. Cox 5 years ago from Elberton, Georgia

    You shared a lot of useful tips with us. When it comes to the food we eat, we have to be very careful. Thank you for sharing this with us and keep up the good work. Voted up, useful and interesting.

  • vespawoolf profile image
    Author

    vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

    Thank you for your comment, Dancilla.

  • Dancilla profile image

    Priscilla 5 years ago from El Paso

    Great hub. Really enjoyed reading. Voted up.

  • vespawoolf profile image
    Author

    vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

    Angela Kane, thanks for dropping by! I never washed my produce until moving to Peru, and that was because it's absolutely necessary here. But now that I see the health benefits and have a routine down, I even do it while visiting family in the States.

  • Angela Kane profile image

    Angela Kane 5 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

    Another great hub idea with great information. I wash my hands a lot before and after preparing and touching foods. The only thing I don't do now that I should do more of is washing my fruits and vegetables more thoroughly before eating them.

  • vespawoolf profile image
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    vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

    That sounds like a good method, Jackie Lynnley. The most important thing is to have a system and stick to it. Thank you for coming by!

  • Jackie Lynnley profile image

    Jackie Lynnley 5 years ago from The Beautiful South

    Good tips. I use a watered down soap liquid in a foam bottle to wash my fruit and vegetables and it suds good and rinses off good without leaving soap residue. I use lemon or orange liquid to not smell perfumed.

  • vespawoolf profile image
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    vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

    Thank you for being the first commenter on this hub, rebeccamealey! I have also been a victim of food poisoning, although it was from food cooked by others. I share these tips regularly with people we meet in Peru. Even those who are poor can afford soap and water and can use the techniques outlined above.

  • rebeccamealey profile image

    Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

    This is a great Hub, vespawoolf. I have had food poisoning before and believe me it was no fun. this will be very helpful to everyone. Food poisoning can be down right dangerous. Voted up and shared, 3 ways. Well if I can find up button.