Avoiding Food Poisoning

I previously recounted how I experienced severe food poisoning after visiting a hotel.  In the same post I drew attention to how you can check the Food Hygiene Rating of restaurants, bars and other food outlets, in order to avoid a similar unpleasant experience.

It is not just when eating out that we have to be careful.  Good food hygiene knowledge at home is important  to avoid the risks of food poisoning from the likes of e-coli, salmonella and campylobacter.

The last one, campylobacter, is the name that people are least familiar with but is in fact the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK and can lead to long-term disability or even be fatal.  The Food Standard Agency has issued specific advice on preventing food poisoning from campylobacter, which includes to NOT wash chicken, as this tends to spread the bacteria all over your sink, surrounding services, clean washing up in the rack, etc.

Rice is another common source of food poisoning and here the NHS provides some advice.  In particular rice that has been left standing at room temperature for much more than an hour can cause food poisoning, even when reheated to a high temperature.  Ideally, any rice precooked for a later occasion needs to be rapidly cooled and refrigerated.

Here are a few other tips that may help you to avoid becoming ill:

  • Wash raw vegetables thoroughly, preferably in salt water first and then rinse in clear water.
  • There’s nothing nicer than salad leaves direct from the garden but soak them in salt water for a while.  The salt kills bacteria, as well as nasties such as slugs, which then rise to the surface.  Rinse well a couple of times in fresh water.
  • Always make sure meat it thoroughly cooked through to the centre and the juices run clear.
  • If you are hosting a party turn your fridge to its maximum setting a couple of hours before you start preparing food.  This helps to balance out the number of times you are likely to open and close the fridge door to take out ingredients or store prepared dishes.
  • Make sure dishes have cooled to room temperature before storing them in the fridge.
  • Invest in a fridge thermometer – your fridge should ideally remain under 4ºC.
  • Dishcloths and sink tidies provide a welcoming breeding ground for germs.  Soaking in a bleach-based solution regularly helps to counteract this.  Microwaving a (wet!) dishcloth for 45 seconds is also a quick way of killing many bacteria.
  • Clean down preparation surfaces and chopping boards with anti-bacterial and/or bleach-based solutions (following the instructions carefully).