By author/contributor Jane Brown –
When you go to a restaurant and get food poisoning or when you buy takeaway food that results in food poisoning, you may need to get legal assistance to help you argue your case and help pay for the medical bills. No one wants the situation to get to this point, but if your illness is bad enough that you are hospitalized and miss work, you will want a lawyer for food poisoning.
However, what do you do when you’re the one who is responsible for food poisoning? It can happen in your kitchen when you don’t observe proper food handling, don’t prepare the food in a hygienic way, or don’t store the leftovers in a safe way.
You’re lucky if you’ve never had food poisoning, but it’s unlikely that you’ve never brushed against a food-borne illness. Chances are you know exactly how awful it can be. If it was a mild case, your body probably managed to gradually recover from the nausea and vomiting. However, sometimes food poisoning can be severe enough to land you in the hospital.
The good news is that you can quickly learn exactly what to do to avoid food poisoning when preparing your own meals in your home. Why ruin a perfectly healthy, tasty quick vegetarian chili from leftovers through neglecting some simple rules of food preparation and storage hygiene?
The funny thing about making a checklist of rules to prevent food poisoning is that most of them will not take you by surprise. In fact you know them already. However, it’s one thing to know what you should or should not do and it’s quite another to actually do what you know.
So, with that in mind, here is a checklist you should follow with the same fidelity with which you brush your teeth at the beginning and end of the day:
1. Wash your hands. Wash, don’t rinse, your hands, and use a clean paper towel to dry them. Washing your hands means using an antibiotic soap, using warm water, and running your hands under the faucet for at least 20 seconds. Without realizing it, you may have touched the lid of the garbage can when you threw something away or handled raw meat or unwashed produce.
2. Thoroughly clean your veggies. Use a spray bottle with hydrogen peroxide and distilled water to clean your vegetables before rinsing them.
3. Thaw foods inside the fridge. Don’t thaw foods out on the counter. This is a mistake most people make out of ignorance. It seems more convenient to do it on the counter because you can then keep an eye on how well it’s thawing, but this is not a good idea, especially if you’re thawing out meat.
4. Store your food at the right temperature. Your fridge will effectively preserve your food if it is set below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature will prevent the proliferation of a bacteria culture. You don’t want the temperature in the fridge to rise above this ideal temperature
5. Use a kitchen cloth. Don’t rely on a sponge for cleaning pots, pans, and dishes. And don’t rely on a sponge for wiping down dirty counters after preparing food. Unless you routinely zap the sponge in the microwave or soak it in bleach, germs have probably multiplied on it. Instead, have a handy collection of kitchen washcloths. These can be easily disinfected by tossing them into the washing machine.
6. Don’t let a sick chef prepare meals. Avoid preparing foods when you are sick and don’t let others do it for you, either. Basic hygiene goes out of the window if the cook is coughing or sneezing or has been ill with some gastrointestinal illness like vomiting or diarrhea. The kitchen is not a place for sick people. This is a good time to order food.
7. Avoid stuffing your refrigerator. It’s not a good idea to cram your refrigerator to the point where you don’t know what’s in it. The temperature might not distribute evenly and the door may not seal tight. You don’t want the temperature of the fridge rising about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, you may lose track of expiration dates of items in the fridge or freezer because you don’t even notice the food that need to be disposed of.
8. Don’t keep leftovers for more than four days. If you want to be super cautious, err toward three days as this will give you one extra day if you forget.
9. When cooking meat, don’t guess when it’s ready. The meat you have in the oven may take longer to cook than the recipe indicates. You have to remember that the recipe is only a guideline based on the thickness of the meat the chef used when testing out the recipe. The only accurate way to gauge the internal temperature of the thickest part of a chunk of meat is by using a food thermometer.
10. Use shallow containers as food containers. This allows the food to cool safely in a uniform way. Avoid putting deep containers like a slow cooker in the fridge.
That’s it. Ten simple rules. No doubt there may be more, but these ten will do the trick. You probably knew most of them, but a few might have taken you by surprise. Now make a list, stick it on the refrigerator door with a magnet and build the habit of keeping your food safe from food-borne pathogens. Prioritize the prevention of food poisoning.