How can I prevent food poisoning?

Doreen Rodo
Nutrition & Dietetics

1. Wash your hands before and after handling raw, uncooked meats, poultry and fish. Sanitize any areas that these items have touched immediately after working with these products to avoid cross contamination. Put any utensils used to touch raw or uncooked items in the dishwasher or hot soapy water immediately after use. Do not use these utensils to touch cooked product or items that will not be cooked such as salad.

2. Wash produce before eating it.

3. Thoroughly cook all meat, poultry and fish. The National Restaurant Association recommends that the following temperatures be met for at least 15 seconds:

  • Beef, Pork, Veal, Lamb, Fish-145 degrees (except roasts should be 145 degrees for 4 minutes)
  • Ground meats- (except poultry)-155 degrees
  • Chicken, Duck or Turkey-including ground-165 degrees
  • Eggs, Meat, Fish in microwave-165 degrees

4. Do not thaw food at room temperature-thaw in refrigerator, microwave or under cold, running water.

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Wash your hands and food frequently and well to avoid food-borne illness. Although serious food-borne illness doesn't occur very often, it can be devastating. More than 40 million Americans suffer from food poisoning every year, and most of this is just a version of "turista." However, several thousand Americans die each year from food-borne illness we don't even know we have. The easiest way to prevent disease is to wash your hands and food plentifully and frequently. I have three salad spinners that are used just for washing fruit and vegetables. In addition, replace your kitchen sponge with inexpensive kitchen towels. After you use each towel, wash it with a sodium hydroxide or bleach. You are less likely to transfer and allow propagation of single germs in the kitchen into disease-causing groups of germs.
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Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
Although most cases of food poisoning are not life-threatening, a few may lead to serious medical conditions, including kidney failure and meningitis. You can prevent most cases of food poisoning in your household by preparing and storing your foods safely. The following precautions will help kill germs that are present in the food you buy and help you avoid introducing new bugs into your food at home:
  • Wash your hands with soap and water before and after each time you handle a raw food.
  • Rinse all meat, poultry, and fish under running water before cooking. Rinse all fruits and vegetables under running water before cooking or serving them.
  • Separate raw foods and cooked foods, and never use the same utensils or cutting boards with cooked meat that were used with raw meat.
  • Cook foods thoroughly, using a meat thermometer to ensure that whole poultry is cooked to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, roasts and steaks to 145 degrees Fahrenheit, and ground meats to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook fish until it is opaque.
  • Defrost foods only in the refrigerator or in the microwave.
The most important factors in preventing foodborne illnesses are good hand hygiene and proper preparation of foods. Washing your hands is important to prevent many types of diseases. Good hand hygiene consists of washing your hands with soap and water for at least 30 seconds and making sure to adequately scrub all surfaces of the hands.

The preparation of food is probably the most important factor in preventing food poisoning. It is important to keep raw meats separated from other foods and to properly wash fruits and vegetables. Meats should be cooked thoroughly and stored properly. These factors are easier to control when you are cooking at home. Restaurants are a little trickier. Most restaurants are good about properly, and safely, preparing food, and they are also overseen by local health departments. If you have questions or are unsure of a restaurant, you can always check with the local health department to see a restaurant's past ratings or find out if they have had any incidences of recent foodborne illnesses.
According to research, nearly 50 percent of all cases of food poisoning can be prevented if everyone correctly washed their hands. According to the CDC, washing your hands correctly means wetting them under cleaning running water, adding soap, rubbing your hands together to make lather, scrubbing, rinsing, and then air drying your hands or drying them with a clean towel.  This whole procedure should take at least 20 seconds.  How long is 20 seconds?   Silently sing the “Happy Birthday” song to yourself twice, and you will have nailed it.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.