How to prevent Food Poisoning

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The very best way of preventing  food poisoning and other food related illnesses it to ensure you maintain high standards of food and personal hygiene coming into contact with food. This specifically applies to handling, storing, preparing and consuming food.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) who is responsible for protecting public health in relation to food in England, Wales and Northern Ireland recommends remembering the “four Cs”:

  • Cleaning
  • Cooking
  • Chilling
  • Cross-contamination (avoiding it)

They also recommend that you take not of food storage instructions show on packaging and keep to any “use by” instructions given.

Cleaning

Cleaning will help prevent the spread of harmful bacteria and viruses. Be careful to keep any food working and preparation surfaces clean and also ensure that any utensils or appliances are also cared for the same way.

We suggest that you regularly wash your hands with soap and warm water, particularly. You may also choose to use a specialist hand cleaning product which could further improve the effectiveness of your washing practices.

It’s highly recommended that you take care to wash your hands in the following situations

  • After going to the toilet or coming into contact with any other bodily fluids (changing nappy etc..)
  • Before preparing food
  • After handling raw food
  • After touching areas which my contain concentrations of bacteria such as bins or pets

It’s also very important that you dry your hands using a clean cloth, hand towel or paper towel. Reusing such items may lead to cross or re-contamination of any cleaned areas or body parts.

Please note that you should not handle food or come in contact with any food preparation surfaces if you have been ill with stomach problems, such as diarrhea or vomiting in the last 48 hours or you have any uncovered sores or cuts to your skin.

Cooking

It’s very important to ensure all food is cooked thoroughly. Special care should be taken particularly with meat and seafood. The cooking process will kill any harmful bacteria that may be present in the food. It may also be beneficial to use a probe thermometer to make sure food has reached the required temperature beneath the surface.

You can check that meat is cooked, insert a knife into the thickest or deepest part. It is fully cooked if the juices are clear and there is no pink or red meat. Some meat, such as steaks and joints of beef or lamb, can be served rare (not cooked in the middle), as long as the outside has been cooked properly.

When reheating food, make sure it is steaming hot all the way through. Don’t reheat food more than once.

Chilling

Certain foods need to be kept at the recommended temperature. This helps prevent harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying. Always check the storage instructions and recommendations printed on the label. If you are unsure then contact your food retailer or supplier.

In order to store food correctly in a refrigerator it should maintain a temperature of 0–5C (32–41F). Food that should be chilled will grow and multiply bacteria to dangerous levels if not stored correctly. An leftover food which has been cooked should be cooled quickly and placed in a refrigerator or freezer as quickly as possible.

Cross-contamination

Cross-contamination occurs when bacteria from food to other foods. This is usually from raw foods such as meat and seafood.

This normally occurs when one food touches or drips onto another food, or when bacteria on your hands, work surfaces, equipment or utensils are spread to food.

To prevent cross-contamination we suggest that you

  • Store raw and ready-to-eat foods separately
  • Always wash your hands after handling raw food – or any food by that matter.
  • Store raw meat in sealable containers at the bottom of your fridge. This ensure that fluids and other contaminated matter will not drop or drip onto other foods
  • Use a different chopping board for raw food and ready-to-eat food. If this is not possible make sure it is washed thoroughly in between preparing different types of food
  • Clean knives and other kitchen / food preparation utensils thoroughly after use
  • Do not wash raw meat or poultry. Harmful bacteria will be killed by cooking the cooking process. Washing may splash harmful bacteria from uncooked food around the kitchen

If you’ve got any other tips or advice on food preparation, cleaning or cooking then please get in touch in the comments below.

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