You’ve heard the horror stories, read the headlines… Every year people get sick and are hospitalized due to food poisoning. Thousands of deaths in the US are attributed to food poisoning however, according to WHO the published number is far below the truth. Regarding how many people get food poisoning the numbers are shocking.
The reality can be hard to take. In fact most likely you have become sick one or more times from eating food that was improperly prepared, mishandled, or contaminated. Food that most definitely should have been thrown out.
Fortunately, the majority of people that are food poisoned every year do not end up in the hospital. Fortunately, the majority of people that are food poisoned every year do not end up in the hospital.
E. coli outbreaks:
4 Children died from food poisoning at Jack in the Box in 1993.
52 Sick and 20 hospitalized traced back to Chipotle Mexican Grill.
2 People died and their deaths were linked to eating mixed salad leaves.
If you were to guess the real issue of these deaths, what you attribute it to?
- Restaurant Chefs – Improper cooking and sanitation.
- Food Servers – Improper sanitation practices at work.
- Food Storage – Improper food storage.
- Food Handling – Improper food processing.
- All of the above
- None of the above.
What’s the truth about food poisoning? The first 5 issues are caused by outside influences on the foods we eat. However, there is a real issue that is not addressed. And that is the individual responsibility each of us has in understanding how to properly handle the food we are responsible for eating.
That means we should be well aware of what goes on in restaurants and accept the fact that not all meats are properly cooked. Not all food is properly washed, stored, prepared or handled by the people that both prepare and serve.
That includes US! How many times have you gone into the bathroom and observed people not washing their hands with soap? Or not washing at all?
Here’s the real kicker. How many people wash their hands for 30 seconds…
Each and Every Time?
- How many times have you eaten fruit or vegetables without washing it properly?
- Do you actually know how to wash it properly?
- What about meat?
- How many people do you think actually use a thermometer to check the meat they are cooking to make sure it’s cooked to the right temperature?
Well, let me be the first to admit that I have eaten food that has not been properly washed, meat that has never had a thermometer check, and while I do wash my hands after I’ve done my business in the bathroom – every single time – as well as after I pet my dog, after I shake someone else’s hand, and well… I’m a little obsessed as I wash my hands a lot.
However, you and I can upgrade our hand washing by at least washing 30 seconds before we eat and after handling raw meats.
Lowering Your risk for Food Poisoning – food storage tips
Let’s be reasonable here. Most of us won’t take the time to wash our hands for 30 seconds. Yet, there’s more than one way we can make improvements in our sanitation routines that will save our stomachs from painful intestinal cramps and the horrifying result when our stomach sends the food back up. BLECK!
So rather than pretending these dangers don’t exist let’s make it a priority to protect ourselves and our family and friends by learning how to properly store, prepare, and cook our food and liquids in our home.
Plus, as a side dish (hehe) I’ll cover some helpful rules to live by for times when you want to eat out.
Eating Out Food Precautions
b. Before you decide to eat at any restaurant ask to see their food and safety health inspections. Every restaurant should have them available to the public. If they do not have one available, that’s a big clue that it may not be a place you want to eat.
c. Check out the bathrooms. If they are dirty, what does that tell you about where the place their priority on public safety? You be the judge.
d. Ask to see behind the scenes as in their kitchen and storage areas. Yep, again, it’s not easy to poke around someone else’s business but it is your health that is at risk. Depending on where you live this may be the most important thing you could do before you decide to eat at any restaurant.
e. How often is the grease pit changed? It’s not always tainted food that can get your intestinal track cramping up. If a restaurant is tight on funds they may cut corners and one of those could be in how often they change their frying oil.
It’s vital that raw meats are not prepared in the same areas or on the same surfaces as other food items. The egg shells will not protect the inside of the egg if placed down on a contaminated surface.
The point here is to realize that a runny egg should never be eaten. And if you really want to know how a restaurant is preparing your foods, you need to ask. Either spare yourself a gut wrenching night at home or in the hospital by asking embarrassing questions or forget asking and risk food poisoning. You can learn more about restaurant precautions at nihseniorhealth.gov.
These are things you can do when eating out, but food poisoning is more often to happen right at home. It’s time to take a closer look at what’s happening inside your kitchen.
The Kitchen Counter
Do’s and Don’ts
Use a wooden cutting board instead. The best type of board to use is one you can easily wash in the sink. If you’re a dishwasher fanatic, get one that’s dishwasher safe.
In fact get two or three! When preparing or handling any raw meat you want to sanitize the board before placing any other food item on it.
Wood is recommended over plastic which is not dishwasher safe. However, once the plastic is scared with a knife the germs get a better grip inside those little cracks and it is more difficult to disinfect your board properly. So if you do use plastic make sure it is dishwasher safe.
start with the basics
Wash with soap and water
No matter what you do it’s best to start with good old soap and water. Most of the time that’s all you need. The times when you want a more powerful cleaning solution is when working with raw meat.
It’s up to you how often you do those spot cleanings. Hands that are rarely washed…kids, ehem… visitors etc… require more attention be given to spots those figures are touching.
Easy Spot Cleaning and Disinfecting Solutions
- White distilled vinegar – For disinfecting the entire kitchen you can use a 50/50 solution. Half water, half vinegar or full strength. In the US it is already diluted, in other countries it may be a lot stronger. If you have a solution that is over 5% acidity it needs to be diluted.
- Hydrogen peroxide – A 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide can be applied via spray bottle after you’ve sprayed on the vinegar. NEVER MIX the two solutions into a container together. It causes some type of chemical reaction. Never mix any cleaning solutions together for that matter until you’ve done your research and know it’s safe.
- Bleach – This is the more harsh of solutions, however, it must be diluted properly. Bleach can make asthma worse, irritate the eye and nasil passages, and the fumes are harmful to children as their lungs are not fully developed; keep it locked up and out of harms way.And today I just learned that bleach has a short shelf life of 3 months – SAY WHAT? You can learn more about it, by downloading this pdf guide from wspehsu.ucsf.edu. To be really safe of course you can stop using it altogether and use either of the above first 2 options. 🙂
To use as a disinfectant add 1/4 cup of bleach per 1 gallon of water.
Keeping your kitchen free of growing bacteria is one of the more important steps you can take to keep your intestinal track safe. In addition to cleaning surfaces where bacteria can grow, you’ll want to properly store and prepare your food.
For instance, do you know how long it is safe to keep raw meat in the refrigerator before it goes bad? Did you know that the answer is different depending on the type of raw meat you’re storing and the way it’s being stored?
Well then… click to continue reading… oh… and by the way, you’re going to be shocked to learn what carries the most bacteria in your kitchen!
Your toilet seat is cleaner than … click here to find out.