Why write about tips to prevent food poisoning? I’m not just a glutton for the gory details and the lectures on staying safe. I want to enjoy food and celebrations, without awful stories of the day (or night) after.
When family gets together for a holiday, the reminiscing should about the good times. We do our share of that, but this Thanksgiving, my son Liam and I found ourselves remembering how awful he felt when he got food poisoning a few years ago.
Not sure why he felt so awful, with hot flashes and a queasy stomach, Liam fainted when he got out of bed to get a glass of water. Luckily, with help he got to an emergency clinic where they diagnosed the problem and gave him directions on how to deal with the other unpleasant symptoms I won’t describe in detail. Hint – Google the BRAT diet.
It turns out that Liam had campylobacteriosis, a fancy name for a type of food poisoning typically associated with “eating raw or undercooked poultry meat or from cross-contamination of other foods by these items.” He thinks he knows how he got sick (from improper handling of raw poultry) and he is more careful now when he prepares and serves poultry and meat.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 6 Americans (48 million people) get food poisoning annually. That’s a whole lot of people and many preventable cases of food poisoning. Here are 5 simple rules that can help keep you and your guests safe this holiday and throughout the year.
5 Tips to Prevent Food Poisoning
- Wash your hands. Duh, as my kids used to say. But washing frequently and with hot, soapy water for longer than a few seconds is a major recommendation. It’s a simple and often overlooked way to prevent food poisoning.
- Don’t cross contaminate. If you’re preparing poultry (turkey, chicken, duck or goose) use a separate space and cutting board from that used for other foods. Separate utensils too – those that you use on the poultry should not also be used for anything else unless you first wash them thoroughly in hot, soapy water.
- Prepare and cook turkey safely. Don’t rinse off a turkey (or other poultry) before cooking it. Rinsing just spreads germs to other surfaces and foods. Thoroughly wash wherever the turkey sits as you’re preparing it to go in the oven (on a cutting board, counter or even in the sink), before allowing any other food to come into contact with that surface. Check the internal temperature of turkey – use a meat thermometer. If you don’t have one, cut near the joint between the thigh and the breast to make sure the juices run clear.
- Follow the 2-hour rule. Refrigerate hot foods after two hours and also moist items at room temperature that contain eggs or dairy such as baked pumpkin, sweet potato, or pecan pies or appetizers such as mini-quiche, stuffed tomatoes or spinach or artichoke dips.
- When in doubt, throw it out. An easy rule to remember, but sometimes difficult to make yourself follow when it seems like wasting food or a shame to lose an expensive item or one you spent a lot of time preparing. But if you have doubts about whether it is safe to eat, (pardon the pun) trust your gut.
Here’s to a safe, happy, and delicious Thanksgiving for all of us. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a lot of cooking to do – so I’m going to sign off, wash my hands, and get started.