How to Prevent Food Poisoning
Food poisoning, which includes any illness brought on by eating contaminated food, is one of the most common diseases in the U.S. One in six Americans are affected annually, with typical cases involving 24-72 unpleasant hours of digestive upset, which may include diarrhea, vomiting, and/or nausea.
If you develop symptoms of severe food poisoning, which can include fevers of over 102 ºF, bloody diarrhea, and dehydration, you should contact your doctor immediately.
Young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems are most at risk; their bodies aren’t as equipped to fight the bacteria that cause the illness. These people should take extra care to ensure their food is uncontaminated. However, we can all take a few precautions to protect against foodborne illness:
1. Keep It Clean.
- Wash your hands thoroughly: Spend at least 20 seconds using soap and warm water with every washing.
- Clean cooking utensils and surfaces after each use.
- Wash your fruits and vegetables, even if you peel them later. Don’t wash meat and poultry! This can actually help spread the bacteria, which can only be killed by thorough cooking.
2. Cook Smart.
- From the grocery cart to the fridge to the kitchen counter, keep poultry, raw meat, eggs, and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods.
- Use a food thermometer to ensure your meal has reached a high enough temperature to kill bacteria.
- Keep your refrigerator below 40 ºF. Otherwise, bacteria can start to grow within two hours.
3. Play It Safe.
- If you think you might have waited too long to eat perishable food, toss it.
- Don’t take chances with raw or undercooked meat, poultry, seafood, or dairy, and those especially at risk should avoid soft cheeses, raw sprouts, and unpasteurized juices and milk.
Learn More About Avoiding Food Poisoning
You can improve your immune system and overall digestive health to help your body fight bad bacteria, but taking these simple precautions when handling and preparing food will go a long way toward reducing your risk of food poisoning.
To speak with a medical professional about your digestive health, make an appointment with Pacific Family Practice.