So, what is food poisoning? In the majority of food poisoning occurrences, the food that makes an individual unwell is contaminated with a virus, such as the norovirus, or by bacteria, such as E. coli, or salmonella. This leads to, for example, salmonella food poisoning. Food poisoning can put you out of commission for as long as a week, and who has time for that? Taking steps to ensure your food preparation is safe and hygienic is therefore vital.
What are food poisoning causes you should look out for?
Food contamination can occur at any stage during its manufacture, handling or cooking. For example, it can become contaminated by:
- not cooking food completely – particularly meat
- not properly storing food that needs to be refrigerated at a temperature below 5°C
- allowing cooked food to be unrefrigerated for a long time
- eating food that has come into contact with someone unwell or someone with diarrhoea and vomiting
- cross-contamination – when food poisoning bacteria are spread between food, equipment and surfaces
How to prevent food poisoning
Those four Cs we mentioned earlier are a handy reminder of effective prevention of food poisoning:
Wash your hands often with warm water and soap, especially:
- Following a bathroom visit, or changing a baby’s nappy
- prior to preparing food
- after touching raw food
- after handling pets or bins
- It’s vital to ensure food is cooked all the way through, particularly meat and seafood, to eliminate any food poisoning bacteria that could be present.
- If you are warming up previously cooked food, ensure it is piping hot right through to the middle. Food should only be reheated one time.
- Some food should be stored at the right temperature to avoid harmful food poisoning bacteria expanding and reproducing. Always read the instructions on packaging.
- If food needs refrigeration, ensure your fridge is set to 0–5°C (32–41°F).
- Cooked leftovers should be quickly cooled, ideally within an hour or two, and stored in the cool temperatures of your freezer or refrigerator.