Seven ways you can avoid food poisoning

There’s nothing worse than enjoying a nice meal and later finding yourself making friends with the toilet bowl. Food poisoning can cause you a world of pain, and even land you in hospital seriously ill.

It doesn’t have to be that way though.

Trying these seven simple tips could be the difference between a healthy, well food you and a hospital bed.

Read more: The foods safety experts refuse to eat

1. Be hygienic

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It’s a no-brainer for food safety, but ignoring basic hygiene such as washing your hands remains one of the biggest causes of food poisoning. Simple measures such as thoroughly washing your hands with warm, soapy before and after you prepare food are vital to stopping the spread of food poisoning. Keeping your food preparing areas tidy is also important. Use hot, soapy water when washing any surfaces and utensils before and after you prepare any meals.

2. If in doubt, throw it out

Relying on your nose as the judge of whether your food is good or bad could still lead you to become sick. Dietician Lisa Ren says you shouldn’t use the old sniff test to determine whether something is safe to eat.

“Some bacteria we use to help ferment food are good, such as those producing yogurt, cheese, salami,” she says. “So those things, when you could smell it or it has a bad taste, could be bacteria but not necessarily harmful stuff.”

Even if food looks and smells okay, it might not be safe. If you’re unsure about a food, such as how it has been prepared or whether it’s been stored safely, you should throw it out. If food is left at room temperature too long, it can become infested with bacteria that not even cooking will remove. If you aren’t sure if a food has been prepared, served or stored safely, discard it.

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3. Keep it cool 

Ever done your grocery shopping and left your cold stuff at room temperature for a few hours? Then you could have been putting yourself at risk of getting of food poisoning.  Doctors recommend putting perishable foods in the fridge or freezer within two hours of buying or preparing them. If it’s 32C or more, you should put the perishable foods away within an hour. Food left at room temperature too long may contain bacteria or toxins that can’t be destroyed by cooking. Ren suggests keeping food cool by storing in at a temperature below five degrees.

“The best practice is to keep things in the fridge as long as possible and then once it’s past their use-by date, when in doubt, throw it,” Ren says.

4. Thaw it in a cool place

It turns out thawing food at room temperature could be making you sick. Instead of defrosting frozen meat on a plate on your kitchen sink, put it in the fridge. If you’re defrosting in the microwave, be sure to cook the food immediately.

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Read more: Food safety myths busted

5. Cook it properly

Uncooked and undercooked meat, such as chicken, can be a breeding ground for bacteria that can cause food poisoning. It’s very important to cook food thoroughly. Staff at the Mayo Clinic suggest using a food thermometer to ensure your food is cooked at a safe temperature. Cooking food at the right temperature will kill most harmful organisms.

6. Separate raw from ready-to-eat

Cross-contamination is another major cause of food poisoning. To reduce the risk of cross-contamination, you should keep your raw food such as meat from your ready-to-eat foods. That includes when you do grocery shopping and when you prepare and store your food.

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7. Read the labels

Always follow the cooking, preparation and storage instructions on your food. One of the dilemmas you’re likely to face is the age-old best before versus use by dates. Food that is best before means that if you eat after that date it won’t necessarily be a health risk, but the quality will be less.

“Use by around whether the food can be unsafe,” Ren advises

Have you ever suffered food poisoning? Has the risk of food poisoning changed the way you prepare food?