A few hours after you ate yesterday’s leftovers, you start feeling sick. You want to throw up. You feel nauseous. Your stomach hurts. And you rush to the toilet to relieve yourself. You know that you are now facing the consequences of eating that old spaghetti; you have food poisoning. Good thing, you start feeling a little better the next day. And now, you vow to not eat anymore leftovers ever again.
You know how unpleasant food poisoning can be. And you know you don’t want to experience it ever again. But is avoiding leftovers the solution to your problem? Is it enough to avoid getting food poisoning again? Read on for some tips on how to prevent food poisoning.
What is Food Poisoning?
Simply put, food poisoning is any food-borne illness. It is a disease caused by pathogens and toxins that may be present in the food you eat. Drinking water contaminated with toxins and pathogens may also lead to food poisoning.
Since there are a lot of different bacteria, viruses, fungi, and toxic substances, there are many different causes of food poisoning. These causes of food poisoning may have different effects or symptoms, although most cases of food poisoning include symptoms of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. The severity of the symptoms, the onset of the symptoms, and how long they last depend on the cause of the food poisoning. Some milder cases last only for a day or two. Others may last for more than a week. And some cases, if left untreated, could lead to various health complications and even death.
Preventing food poisoning
Food poisoning seems like a scary situation. But we can fight food poisoning. And we can prevent it from happening to us and the people around us if we follow these simple steps:
- Cook or pasteurize food thoroughly, especially animal products such (i.e. meat, dairy, poultry). Cooking and pasteurizing food kills the pathogens that may be present in the food.
- Check the expiration dates on the packaging of foods and drinks before purchasing and consuming. Avoid consuming expired foods and drinks.
- Keeps juices and drippings from raw meat, poultry, fish, and eggs from contaminating other food products.
- Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from cooked food and fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Select raw food (i.e. meat, poultry, fish, seafood, vegetables, fruits) that are fresh and of good quality.
- Avoid buying vegetables, crops, and fruits that have been sprayed on with insecticides.
- Store food properly. Do not leave dairy products, eggs, fish, meat, poultry, and seafood at room temperature for extended periods of time. Refrigerate leftovers and food that has been prepared in advance.
- Thaw food in the refrigerator. Do not refreeze thawed food.
- Wash raw vegetables and fruits properly.
- Use separate chopping boards for raw meat or poultry and vegetables.
- Wash hands properly with antibacterial soap and water before and after preparing and/or consuming food.
- Protect food from insects and other animals.
- Wash hands properly after handling animals such as reptiles and birds and after using the toilet.
- Do not prepare food for other people if you are ill, especially if you have diarrhea and/or vomiting.
- Pregnant women, infants, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems should avoid eating soft cheeses (i.e. feta, Brie, blue-veined, Camembert) and foods from deli counters. They should also cook food until steaming hot, especially leftovers and ready-to-eat foods.
- Keep your kitchen clean. Wash utensils, pots, pans, and cutting boards properly. Keep your kitchen counter clean.
- Avoid eating raw shellfish. Red tide and other microbial outbreaks may contaminate shellfish.
- Avoid eating food that looks unusual or smells bad. This may most likely be already spoiled. Do not eat or drink anything if you have any doubts.
- Consume prepared or cooked foods as soon as possible to prevent spoiling.
Preventing food poisoning is simple. All you really need is to observe cleanliness at all times and to be careful with the food you purchase, prepare, and eat.