introduced By Dr Nina Byrnes
In association with Hidden Hearing
Dr. Nina Byrnes introduces a series of articles by various writers on medical topics this one is by Edel Rooney.
Making sure your food doesn’t make you sick
I had an awful bout of food poisoning two months ago when I was violently ill for several days. I’m now paranoid about what I eat as I never want to experience that again. More importantly, I want to protect my children from a similar experience. Do you have any tips on avoiding food poisoning?
Foodborne illnesses occur as a result of bacteria, viruses, or parasites contaminating the food you eat. The most common causes are improper food handling, preparation or storage.
By maintaining sensible hygiene practices and watching where you eat, you can minimise your exposure to these types of illnesses.
Here are some common-sense tips:
Make sure the premises is clean, especially work surfaces, tables and utensils.
Check if you can see where the food is being prepared. Is the area clean?
Check if staff are well presented. Waiters and waitresses should have clean hands and nails, their hair should be tied back securely and their uniforms should be clean.
You should store raw meat, poultry or fish near the bottom of the fridge so their juices do not drip onto other food. Cooked food should be stored on higher shelves. Food should be placed in a container or on a covered tray in the fridge.
Keep your fridge clean – throw out old food, wash inside surfaces with warm soapy water and rinse.
Store food as directed on the label.
For frozen storage, it is best to remove the food from the wrapping and put it into freezer bags to maintain its quality. You should expel all air from the bag and then tie, label and date it.
You should cover and store cooked food in the fridge after the steam has evaporated. Never leave cooked food to cool completely on the kitchen counter.
Do not put too much warm food in your fridge as it will not be able to cool to the core. Germs can multiply when the centre of the food remains warm for too long.
Put chilled and frozen food into your fridge and freezer as soon as possible after purchase. Freeze food you do not intend to use before its use-by-date, as freezing greatly extends this date.
When re-heating food, ensure it is steaming hot all the way through (above 70°C) – this will kill any bacteria that may have grown on the food when it was in the fridge. Food should never be re-heated more than once and leftover food should be used within a day of preparation.
Clean your fridge and cupboards regularly as crumbs in cupboards can attract pests and dirty fridges can carry bacteria.
Always make sure that frozen food is thawed completely before cooking, unless instructions state “cook from frozen”.
If you are using a microwave to thaw food, cook it immediately after thawing. Never thaw food at room temperature on the kitchen counter.
Once it is thawed, cook food immediately. Thawed food should never be re-frozen in its uncooked state.
Always cook food thoroughly until it is hot – all parts of the food must reach at least 70°C.
When cooking mince, sausages, hamburgers, rolled roasts, pork and chicken, make sure that they are cooked right through, that there is no pink meat and that the juices run clear. If cooked chicken is still raw near the bone, put it back in the oven until it is done.
Always wash raw fruit and vegetables thoroughly before eating them.
You should never serve hot gravy with cold meat.
When using the microwave to cook, always rotate and stir food to make sure it cooks evenly. Leave the food to stand for a few minutes before you check that cooking is complete – food continues to cook even when the microwave is turned off.
Always wash your hands thoroughly in hot, soapy water before serving or eating food.
Never leave potentially hazardous food, raw or cooked, at room temperature any longer than necessary – never leave it longer than 2 hours.
Always use separate cutting boards and utensils for cooked and raw food as this will prevent bacteria from a meat or poultry product contaminating another food. Wash cutting boards thoroughly with hot, soapy water between uses.
Discard cutting boards if they become excessively worn or develop hard-to-clean grooves.
For more information on food safety, see citizensinformation.ie.