Food poisoning can be prevented

Pamela Egan Practical Practitioner


By: Pamela Egan, FNP-C CDE



Food poisoning can be prevented



Several cases of bacterial food poisoning have already been identified this summer. Bacteria can make you and those you care about sick.

To keep your food safe and prevent food poisoning, follow these four simple steps:

1. Wash hands and surfaces often!

Bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, sponges and counter tops.

  • Wash your hands with hot soapy water before handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers and handling pets.

  • Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next food.

  • If you use cloth towels, wash them often in hot cycle of your washing machine.

2. Separate: Don’t cross-contaminate!

Cross-contamination is the scientific word for how bacteria can be spread from one food product to another. This is especially true when handling raw meat, poultry and seafood, so keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.

  • Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods in your grocery-shopping cart and in your refrigerator.

  • Always wash hands, cutting boards, dishes and utensils with hot soapy water after they come in contact with raw meat, poultry and seafood.

  • Never place cooked food on a plate which previously held raw meat, poultry and seafood.

3. Cook food thoroughly!

Food safety experts agree that foods are properly cooked when they are heated for a long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause food poisoning.

  • Use a clean thermometer, which measures the internal temperature of cooked foods, to make sure meat, poultry, casseroles and other foods are cooked all the way through.

  • Cook roasts and steaks to at least 145 degrees. Whole poultry should be cooked to 180 degrees.

  • Cook ground beef, where bacteria can spread during processing, to at least 160 degrees. Information from the Centers for Disease

    Control and Prevention (CDC) link eating undercooked, pink ground beef with a higher risk of illness. If a thermometer is not available, do not eat ground beef that is still pink inside.

  • Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm. Don’t use recipes in which eggs remain raw or only partially cooked.

  • Fish should be opaque and flake easily with a fork.

  • When cooking in a microwave oven, make sure there are no cold spots in food where bacteria can survive. For best results cover food, stir and rotate for even cooking.

  • Bring sauces, soups and gravy to a boil when reheating. Heat other leftovers thoroughly to at least 165 degrees.

4. Refrigerate leftovers promptly!

Refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures keep harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying. Set your refrigerator no higher than 40 degrees and the freezer unit at 0 degrees.

  • Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared foods and leftovers within two hours or sooner.

  • Never defrost food at room temperature. Thaw food in the refrigerator, under cold running water or in the microwave. Marinate foods in the refrigerator.

Make the meals and snacks from your kitchen as safe as possible, and help keep your family safe from food poisoning.

For more information about safe food handling and preparation contact USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline @ 1(800) 535-4555 or FDA’s Food Information and Seafood Hotline @1(800) 332-4010.

This article was originally published July 30, 2002 in The St. Tammany News. > Health Articles > Disease Prevention