Prevent food poisoning

Many common diseases of the intestines are spread through food. Sometimes people who harvest, handle, or prepare food pass germs from their hands into the food. Sometimes germs and moulds in the air begin to grow in the food and it goes bad (spoils). This happens when food is not stored or cooked properly, or when it gets old.
To prevent the the spread of germs in food
  • Wash your hands with soap and water before preparing food, before eating, and before feeding your children.
  • Wash or peel all fruits and vegetables that are eaten raw.
  • Do not let raw meat, poultry, or fish touch other food that is eaten raw. Always wash your hands, knife, and cutting board after cutting these meats.
  • Avoid coughing, spitting, and chewing things, like gum, near food so your saliva does not get in the food.
  • Do not allow animals or pets to lick dishes or utensils clean. If possible, keep animals out of the kitchen.
  • Throw food out when it spoils.

Here are some of the most common signs of spoiled foods

  • bad smell
  • bad taste or a change in taste
  • changed colour (for example, if raw meat changes from red to brown)
  • many bubbles on the top (for example, on the top of old stew or soup) along with a bad smell
  • slime on the surface of meat or cooked foods

Cooked food

Cooking food kills germs. All meats, fish, and poultry should be well cooked. Nothing should look raw or have a raw colour.
If the food begins to cool, the germs quickly start to grow again. If the food is not eaten within 2 hours, reheat it until it is very hot. Liquids should be bubbling, and solids (like rice) should be steaming.
Food storage
Whenever possible, eat freshly prepared food. If you store food, keep it covered to protect it from flies and other insects, and dust.
Protecting yourself against food poisoning

  • Cook meat, pork, and poultry thoroughly to kill salmonella. These bacteria are heat-sensitive and are destroyed at cooking temperatures of 140oF or higher. To be completely safe, cook poultry until the meat reaches 180oF to ensure the destruction of any salmonella that may be present. Boneless parts should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160oF. When poultry is cooked thoroughly, juices will be clear, not pink.
To make sure that meat and poultry are cooked all the way through, you can use a meat thermometer to measure internal temperature. Insert the tip into the thickest part of the meat, avoiding fat and bone. For poultry, insert the thermometer tip into the thick part of the thigh next to the body.

  • Your refrigerator temperature should be below 40oF, and your freezer should be set at 0oF. Always allow frozen food more time to cook — generally 1 1/2 times longer than food that has been thawed.
  • Always thaw meats in the refrigerator, never on the kitchen counter. The warmth of the kitchen and exposure to other foods creates ideal conditions for growth and spread of bacteria. Meat and poultry thaw from outside to inside, so thawing your meat and poultry in the refrigerator will keep bacteria from growing on the outside while the inside thaws.
  • Cooked poultry that is not eaten immediately should be kept hot (between 140oF and 185oF) or refrigerated at 40oF or below. Slice the meat or poultry before refrigerating so it will cool quickly.
  • Reheat leftovers to at least 165oF before eating. Cover the pot to retain as much moisture and flavour as possible and to make sure the food will heat evenly all the way through.
  • Do not leave any food unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours. Never leave foods — particularly meats — in the oven overnight; microorganisms find the oven environment a perfect hatchery.
  • Should any meat or product have an off odour or an unusual colour or texture do not taste it. The microorganisms responsible for food poisoning cannot be tasted, anyway.

Eating well with less money

Can we get well with less money?  It's not only possible. It is true that good food is cheaper because processed foods can be very expensive. Natural and fresh foods are also more nutritious. They also have no food additives which are added not for eating, but for longer shelf-life; replace lost colours and flavours; and other needs of the food industry.

You can get more vitamins, minerals, and proteins at low cost. Here's how.

1.     Protein foods. Beans, peas, lentils, and other similar foods (called legumes) are a good, cheap source of protein. If allowed to sprout before cooking and eating, they have more vitamins. Eggs are one of the cheapest sources of animal protein. And some fish are often cheaper than other meats and are just as nutritious.

2.     Grains. Rice, wheat, and other grains are more nutritious if their outer skins are not removed during milling.

3.     Fruits and vegetables. The sooner you eat fruits and vegetables after harvesting, the more nutrition they have. When you store them, put them in a cool, dark place to preserve vitamins. Cook vegetables in as small an amount of water as possible, because vitamins from the vegetables go into the water during cooking. Then use the water in soups or drink it.

The tough outside leaves or tops from vegetables like carrots or cauliflower contain many vitamins and can be used to make healthy soups.

Many wild fruits and berries are rich in vitamin C and natural sugars, and can provide extra vitamins and energy.

4.     Avoid spending money on packaged foods or vitamins. If parents took the money they often use for sweets or fizzy drinks and spent it on nutritious foods, their children would be healthier for the same amount of money.

Since most people can get the vitamins they need from food, it is better to spend money on nutritious foods than on pills.

Buying fresh fish – what to look for

Buying fresh fish is a difficult task for those without the knowledge or experience in the selection of fish. Here we show you what to look for when buying fresh fish.
  • Eat the fish on the day you buy it, if possible. This is because fish, like any other perishable food will lose its edible life very quickly.
  • Pick a stall that has good patronage. This will be a good indicator of likely freshness, attracting customers to the stall.
  • The fish display should be clean, with a considerable amount of ice on it.
  • Buy a variety of fishes. Don't just consume certain species. Make an effort to try those that are in plentiful supply, cheap and fresh.
  • Don't be fooled by the red lighting near or at the stall. They can make the fish look fresher by camouflaging any brown or yellowish discolouration.
  • Ask the seller if you can have the cuts from the whole fish that look fresher rather than those cuts already on display.
  • Bring it home quickly and put it into the refrigerator. You may also use a storage box packed with ice for the journey.

Should be bulging out of the socket and should not be cloudy, bloodshot and sunken.
Should be bright red and not slimy or dark.
Should be firmly attached to the skin.
Should be firmly attached to the bone and not discoloured.
Should have a firm, elastic texture when poked.
Should be bright and glossy with a luminous, wet sheen and not dull and dry.
Should have an ocean-like scent and not a strong fishy smell.

Food safety tips

There are many types of fresh and processed foods. Some are frozen, some dried and some canned. How do we handle the food safety issues in these foods?

Frozen food
  • The basic frozen foods — vegetables, fruit, fish and meat  — are normally free from added salt and sugar. Frozen meat and poultry can have added water, and polyphosphates (which help to retain the water until you cook the food).
The rate of bacterial multiplication reaches its peak when the temperature of the food is 37oC (98.6oF). So don't leave thawed food lying around at room temperature.

  • Make sure that frozen meat (particularly poultry) is completely thawed before you start cooking it. The danger is that you'll start cooking with the centre of the joint or poultry still frozen. The outside will be cooked, but the inside will be an incubator for bacteria.
  • Don't re-freeze food which has been frozen and then thawed. The thawing will have increased the bacteria in the food, and when it's thawed again you'll get a second multiplication of bacteria — possibly dangerous.
  • Don't keep thawed food — especially poultry — for long periods in the fridge. The highly toxic organism listeria can go on multiplying at temperatures right down to freezing point.
Dried food

  • Dried foods can have additives: watch out for them. Dried fruit may be coated in mineral oils — potentially toxic preservatives. They may also contain added sulphites, which can cause asthma attacks, headaches and nausea.

Sulphites may be listed as E numbers 220 to 224, E226 or E227.

Canned food

Some tins have a no preservatives label — but there's nothing remarkable about that. Canning meats often have a chemical preservative (nitrite) which is now controversial, because of a possible link to cancer in animals.
Other things to look out for are added flavourings, colourings, and added salt and sugar. Some cans have a breakdown of the proportions of fat, sugar, and salt.
In some countries like the UK, food producers have to list their ingredients in descending order by weight — not as helpful as an exact breakdown, but a guide to high concentrations of salt and sugar.

  • Don't buy a can if it's dented. The internal lacquer inside the can may have been damaged, and particles from the tin may have dissolved into the food.
  • Look out for rusting, faulty seams or swollen ends. If the can is swollen it is possible that gas has been produced inside it. This is caused by insufficient sterilisation, and can provide conditions favourable for the growth of the bacteria clostridium botulensis (a cause of the toxic food poisoning botulism).
  • After opening the can, any remaining contents should be stored and handled as fresh food. Make sure the leftover contents are properly reheated before eating.
  • Store cans in a cool place. During storage there is sometimes a slow chemical deterioration of the product, depending on storage temperatures, residual oxygen, and the surface type of the can.

Food storage: For how long & how to?

How long can foods be stored?

Many people do keep their food longer than the above guidelines. If you keep your food longer, make sure you check it each time to see that it has not turned mouldy, slimy, stinky, rancid or otherwise rotten. Always check the food BEFORE you taste it.

•    Ground meats, fresh poultry and raw fish should be used within 1-2 days after purchase.

•    Milk, cream, cottage cheese and cream cheese are good for a week after opening.

•    Hard cheeses that are tightly wrapped are good for 2-3 months.

•    Eggs are good for 3-4 weeks. Keep them refrigerated.

•    Cooked or uncooked vegetables are good in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

•    Bread, cake and cookies (or anything made from a batter with yeast or wheat) should be used within a week to avoid mould.

•    Baked goods will last longer (2 weeks) if refrigerated.

•    Leftover chicken, gravy, sauce, chicken or tuna salads and turkey pies are only good for 1-2 days if refrigerated.

•    Mustard, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and other condiments should be used within a year of opening the container.

•    Mayonnaise, once opened, is good for 2 months.

•    Open bottles of salad dressing are good for 3 months.

•    Ketchup, jams, jelly and peanut butter are good for 6 months.

If you cannot remember when a food was placed in the refrigerator, throw it out.

Is all mouldy food dangerous?

Food poisoning is caused by various bacterial organisms. Mould is not a bacteria and will not cause food poisoning. Mould does not cause botulism unless the product was already contaminated with the botulism organism.

Mould can cause illness, especially if the person is allergic to moulds. Usually though, the main symptoms from eating mouldy food will be nausea or vomiting from the bad taste and smell of the mouldy food.

How can I keep food stored safely?

Keep refrigerator temperature between 35-400F and freezer temperatures at 00F or lower.

Space food items in your refrigerator and freezer so cold air can freely circulate.

Wrap raw meat, fish or poultry in separate plastic bags. Place them on a plate or tray on the lowest shelf in the refrigerator to keep leaking juices from dripping on other foods.

Freeze fresh meat, fish or poultry if they are not going to be used in the next 2 days. Rewrap meat packages in aluminum foil or freezer paper to keep the meat airtight.

Pack perishable foods in coolers with ice or ice packs when cleaning or defrosting your refrigerator or freezer.

Use plenty of ice in the picnic chest to keep foods such as egg salad, potato salad, macaroni salad or any dishes made with mayonnaise or cream cold. Don’t leave these foods in the sun.

After holiday meals, remember to place the leftover chicken in the refrigerator. Do not leave the chicken on the counter or in the oven overnight.

Do not leave stuffing in the chicken when you refrigerate it.

How do I know if foods are cooked thoroughly and properly?

•    Red meat should be cooked to 1600F.

•    Large cuts of red meat can be cooked to medium rare, 1450F.

•    Ground meat and hamburgers should be cooked all the way through until the center is at least 160-1650 F.

•    Cook fish to 130-1400F, until the centre looks opaque when tested with a fork.

•    Cook pork to 1550F with no pink.

•    Cook chicken to 170-1800F or until the juices run clear.

•    Eggs should be cooked until both the yolk and the white are firm.

•    Heat left-overs to 1650F. When reheating sauces, soups and gravies, bring them to a boil.

•    Never drink unpasteurised milk or dairy products.

•    Do not eat raw cookie dough that contains eggs.

•    Do not use leftover marinades as they contain raw meat juices.

Source: California Poison Control System