ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Health»
  • Personal Health Information & Self-Help

5 Ways to Prevent Food Poisoning and Safety Tips

Updated on September 23, 2012

Copyright 2012 - Kris Heeter, Ph.D. (Reprinting, copying, or reproducing this article elsewhere online or offline is prohibited).

One in six Americans get sick from food poisoning each year. Undoubtedly most everyone reading this has had it at some point.

According to U.S. government statistics, food poisoning sends more than 100,000 Americans to the hospital each year.

Salmonella and E. coli are two of the more common bacteria linked to food poisoning. Salmonella food poisoning is estimated to cost up to $14.6 billion annually in the U.S. alone.

Following the simple guidelines in the five categories below can help you reduce your risk of food poisoning:

How to Prevent Food Poisoning

The prevention of food poisoning starts when shopping at the store and continues long after the food arrives in the kitchen. Care needs to be taken when handling fresh foods while shopping and when storing those fresh foods at home.

Prevention continues during the cooking process and in storing leftovers. Speaking of leftovers...

There are many safety steps should can be taken when eating out and picnicking and bringing how leftovers.

Check out the simple safety tips below!

It Starts At The Store

Make sure the quality of the food you choose is good (e.g., avoid meats with discoloration).

Keep meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods at the grocery.

Pick your fresh fruits and veggies out first.

Wait to handle meat packages until the end and if your store provides bags to place packaged meats in, utilize those.

Don’t allow meat packages to touch your fresh produce in the cart or in your packed grocery bags.

Keeping Food Safe At Home

Make sure all fruit and vegetable produce is washed thoroughly before eating it.

Keep foods separated during preparation and storage. For example, don’t use the same cutting board to cut meat and chop veggies.

Heat food until it is hot and steaming (at least to 165 degrees Fahrenheit/74 degrees Celsius).

Your refrigerator should be set to keep cold foods at 40 degrees Fahrenheit/4 degrees Celsius or lower.

Cold foods should be eaten within two hours or put them in the refrigerator or freezer for later.

When reheating food, make sure it gets above 165 degrees Fahrenheit/74 degrees Celsius in the over. If it is liquid (like soup), be sure it comes to a boil.

When using the microwave, be sure to stop, stir and start the microwave again to be sure the food is thoroughly heated. Cold spots left in microwave food can allow germs live.

You can find and download a handy dandy chart of how long foods can be stored in the refrigerator at:

More Information on Food Poisoning Symptoms and Causes

Bacterial food poisoning is the most common type in the United States.

To learn more about the types of foods that can be contaminated and the symptoms of E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria and Botulism, visit the CDC website or visit "Four Types of Food Poisoning and Common Causes".

Did you know that certain types of non-bacterial food poisoning can cause cancer? To learn more, visit: "Aflatoxicosis: Food Poisoning That Can Cause Liver Cancer"

Did you know that there are over 100,000 suspected pathogens or microbes that can cause food poisoning? To learn more, visit: Foodborne Pathogens and Toxins: outbreaks and recalls

Food Safety When Eating Out

One very easy "telltale" sign is how clean the restaurant looks. If the tables are dirty, the floor a mess or if the food prep area (if you can see it) is a disaster, think twice before staying.

Any signs of ants or roaches run and don’t look back!

Order meat, poultry, fish, and eggs as fully cooked.

When your meal comes, double check to make sure it’s very hot and thoroughly cooked before you dig in. If it’s not, don’t hesitate to send it back. I once ordered chicken and upon slicing into it, found it cold and pink - a bad sign!

Watch for items that might contain eggs that are not fully cooked like salads (including egg salad), custards, and some sauces.

Unless you go to a very well renowned sushi and oyster bar, skip the raw fish.

Take-out and Leftovers

If you are considering a doggie bag but you are not going to be anywhere near a refrigerator within hour or two, then you may wish to skip taking home the leftovers. During the summer months, your car can get very warm inside. When it is warm, bacteria and other germs can grow fast (E. coli can double in number every 15-20 minutes).

If your food has been sitting out and you are not sure if it is safe to eat, use the simple rule of thumb:

“When in doubt, throw it out!”


Picnicking At The Pool Or Lake

If you are going on a picnic, be sure your food in the cooler is packed with plenty of ice.

Once any cold items have been dished out, put them immediately back in the cooler.

Keep items covered if anything is sitting out. Flies could care less if they are snacking on your food or the nearest pile of manure – it’s all very tasty to them either way.

When swimming before eating, be sure the family washes up with soap and clean water. The parasite Cryptosporidium (aka “Crypto”) lurks in lakes, rivers and pools and can cause diarrhea that lasts 1-2 weeks.

Special Note: Crypto can also be found in contaminated drinking water and can be spread by food that has been contaminated with feces (yes, the "poop" those picnic flies love). Alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not work against this parasite so hand washing is crucial!

More Food Poisoning Statistics

To learn more on food poisoning and about some recent startling discoveries, check out: 10 Surprising Food Poisoning Statistics and Discoveries.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • heavenbound5511 profile image

      heavenbound5511 5 years ago from Under the shadow of the Almighty God!

      Very interesting page,Thanks for sharing.Very helpful!

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      @Vinaya, @LadyLyell - thanks for stopping by and adding comments!

      @shea duane - dogs and cats are pretty resilient and taking a little longer to get their doggie bag in the 'fridge is probably ok:)

      @Just Ask Susan - bad sour cream doesn't sound pleasant! After I had food poisoning with a take-out Chinese chicken dish, I couldn't eat Chinese out for years. I just felt sick even looking at.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I've never had food poisoning but my husband has from bad sour cream. He said it was one of the worst things he went through.

      Really good hub. I will have to pay more attention to how my groceries are packed by the cashiers as I'm sure some of them have put meat together in the same bag with other food items.

    • shea duane profile image

      shea duane 5 years ago from new jersey

      Great hub. But I have a question: sometimes I bring home a doggie bag for my dogs. Do I have a little more time before I get it into the fridge? I mean, my dogs eat stuff they find on the ground and drink water from the toilet ???

    • LadyLyell profile image

      LadyLyell 5 years ago from George, South Africa

      This is good information to keep in mind. Luckily I haven't suffered food poisoning.

      Voted useful!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

      Useful and informative. Thanks for sharing.

    • tarajeyaram profile image

      tarajeyaram 5 years ago from Wonderland

      Kris, these are really good tips. Great hub. Voted up and across.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Hi Kris - Great Hub with very useful advice. We probably should all be a little more careful, especially as the days get warmer. Hope all is well.

      Theresa SHARING

    • pmccray profile image

      pmccray 5 years ago from Utah

      Never suffered the ailment myself, but heard it is horrid. Excellent advice given, especially buying fresh meat produce that was priced lower for quick re-sale . . uggh.

      Trying to reduce cost can backfire if you end up with an even bigger hospital bill for your troubles. Voted up, marked useful and interesting.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Kris, this information is valuable to families as we all are interested in keeping healthy and wise in food safety. We eat out occasionally and only at restaurants we trust for the reasons you mention. So many places have kitchens that would make you sick just to see them. Voted up!

    • badegg profile image

      Del Banks 5 years ago from Southern Appalachians

      This is a great hub for educating others on the importance of being food-safe. Being a butcher in a high volume market, we all have to be trained in "Safe-Serve" practices, and we strive to educate our customers with the same information. Great hub! Keep 'em coming!

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      @m0rd0r, @randomcreative, and @wwolfs -

      Thanks for the comments. After writing this hub yesterday, I found myself being a little more diligent at the store as I was placing items in my basket/cart! :)

    • profile image

      wwolfs 5 years ago

      This is a great hub! Many useful tips. I think one time I had a mild case from something I ate out and all I know is that it was horrible. Now, I'm extra careful on everything I eat or buy, too.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Good topic for a hub! I've only had a mild case of it once and wouldn't wish it on anyone. Sometimes people just get unlikely but following these basic tips can prevent a lot of potential cases, especially with your own cooking.

    • m0rd0r profile image

      Stoill Barzakov 5 years ago from Sofia, Bulgaria

      Thank you for doing this research Kris.

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      @Cardisa - thanks for the comments. I've had to twice from eating out and it's not fun. I'm a little more careful now about eating out and don't do it as often anymore!

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 5 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi Kris, I have never had food poisoning but I know others that suffer all the time. I am very particular about the foods I buy so that helps. These tips are great! I hope they help a lot of people because I understand that food poisoning can be fatal.