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20 Ways to Avoid Food Poisoning

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the top food culprits of food poisoning include foods from poultry, unpasteurized milk, raw eggs, and raw shellfish.  The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the authority to make announcements of outbreaks of foodborne illnesses in addition to forcing retailers or venders to recall whatever food product caused the outbreak.  However, despite these measures, it is still possible for any consumer to come into contact with contaminated foods.  In addition to this risk, lack of food safety preparation at home can also lead to food poisoning.  While there are an exponential number of ways a consumer can avoid food poisoning, following a straightforward guideline can help introduce basic food safety practices into any household.

Food poisoning can occur in anyone consuming contaminated food; however, it most likely occurs in those with weaker immune systems like infants and the elderly.  Other groups that are vulnerable include those with chronic diseases like AIDS and pregnant women.  Healthy teens and adults are less likely to suffer severe consequences of food poisoning due to their robust immune system. Despite the fact that the FDA has a considerable long and complicated set of rules for farmers and other vendors to follow when packaging and selling food to consumers, due to a variety of reasons the FDA is unable to protect every single consumer in the country.  With this, it is important for consumers to know how to protect themselves at home and when dining out.

1. Cook food thoroughly – Most recipes call for cooking meats at a certain temperature.  Buying a cooking thermometer is ideal for this.
2. Separate fresh veggies from raw meats when preparing a meal.  This will prevent cross-contamination.
3. Wash all vegetables before use – The usually come with tiny insects, even when washed at your local grocery store.
4. Rinse fruit that is to be eaten uncooked – Doing this will not only help you from eating germs, but also various pesticides that are used during the growth of that fruit.
5. Chill foods that need to be kept cold immediately when coming home from the grocery store.
6. Keep the kitchen clean – use antibacterial products when possible or at least a vinegar solution if you want to avoid harsh chemicals.
7. Avoid cold deli meats – This is especially true if you go to restaurants that prepare fresh subs.  However, if you do buy some cold deli meat from your grocery store, you can cook it and then put it back in the fridge to get it back cold again before serving it.
8. Always wash your hands when cooking and before eating – Use soapy HOT water.  Under no circumstances should you do a half job on this one.  At any given moment our hands carry hundreds of thousands of germs and you don’t want any of that on your food.
9. Reheat leftovers thoroughly – Especially any foods that contained beef or poultry.
10. Avoid unpastuerized fruit juices – Most fruit juices are pasteurized, but double check the labels.
11. Avoid unpastuerized milk – Look on labels in the store.  Pasteurized milk will say so.
12. Be careful of raw meat like sushi and steak tartar
13. Never eat raw shellfish – Shellfish includes clams, oysters, and mussels for example.
14. Avoid restaurants that look dirty – It’s definitely ok to support the local guy, but not to the extent of your own health.
15. Don’t lick any batter that contains raw eggs – For example, if you’re making chocolate chip cookies which calls for use of raw eggs before baking…DO NOT under any circumstances be tempted to lick off the mixing spoon any leftover dough in the bowl.
16. Clean chopping boards – Plastic boards can be simply put into the dishwasher.  However, wood boards should be cleaned with an unscented bleach solution.  New wood boards are best as old ones and plastic boards tend to allow germs to resurface more easily.  Also, after cleaning them, let the chopping boards remain a part from other dishes in order to let them dry completely.  Moist attracts germs as well.
17. Avoid leaving leftovers out for longer than 1 hour after a meal is served – Bacteria tends to thrive in conditions that are not too cold or too hot.  Thus leaving your baked chicken out for 4 hours is a guarantee way to allow some growth to take place.
18. Do not let your pet or insects nibble off food you intend to eat – If you let your dog lick your plate, make sure you let him lick it CLEAN not partially and then you eat more off of it.
19. Keep the refrigerator set at 4°C – This will prevent most bacterial species from growing.  But don’t fool yourself either; there are bacteria that exist that can grow at just below 10°C. 
20. If the electricity goes out and you don’t have a generator, throw away any food that needed to be kept cold after several hours.

Now in an ideal world, following all these measures would ensure you would never get food poisoning.  But since we do not live in an ideal world, recognizing the signs of food poisoning is just as important.  With this, it can be very essential to get medical attention right away due to the fact that the symptoms can become severe very quickly if appropriate measures are not followed.  The typical symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.  However, if you experience diarrhea accompanied with blood in the stool, headache, stiff neck, a fever lasting more than a day, rapid heart rate, dizziness, general weakness, numbness, tingling, or diarrhea that lasts longer than several days, you should consider the food poisoning to be severe enough for an emergency room visit.
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