6 Easy Ways to Prevent Food Poisoning

April 29, 2011

Food poisoning isn't just a solid excuse to call in sick to the office. Food-borne illness not only kills, but takes a big toll on the economy. The University of Florida just released it's report that lists the 10 pathogen-food combinations that cause the most food poisoning cases in the U.S. What's most startling, is that these food-borneĀ illnesses cost the economy a whopping $18 billion in lost wages, medical care and more.

Poultry contaminated with Campylobacter topped the list and cost the economy $1.3 billion. Rounding out the top-five were Toxoplasma in pork ($1.2 billion), Listeria in deli meats ($700 million), Salmonella in poultry ($700 million), and Listeria in dairy products ($700 million).

But a few simple practices recommended by the Mayo Clinic could eliminate a significant amount of these diseases. Here are 6 ways you can prevent food-borne illness in your kitchen, and save those sick days for something more useful, like a baseball game.

6 Easy Ways to Prevent Food Poisoning

  1. Wash hands and utensils with hot soapy water after handling and preparing food.
  2. Prevent cross-contamination by keeping raw meats and shellfish separate from produce and other ready-to-eat foods in the market, at home, and while cooking.
  3. Cook foods to a safe temperature. Invest in a good meat thermometer and make sure you cook food all the way. Most pathogens are killed off at temperatures between 145 F (62.8 C) and 165 F (73.9 C).
  4. Refrigerate or freeze raw foods within 2 hours of purchasing. If it's hotter than 90 degrees, you've only got an hour. And if you don't expect to eat raw meats within two days, freeze it.
  5. Defrost carefully. Don't thaw foods at room temperature. Either thaw meats in the refrigerator, on "Defrost" in the microwave or under cold water.
  6. If you have to think about whether it's safe to eat, don't. No matter how tempting, "come here and smell this," isn't a safe way to prevent illness. If you can't remember when you bought it, that's not a good sign either. Don't take any chances.

Photo: By elkit