During summer, the risks of food poisoning increase, because temperatures are warm and people cook more often outside thanks to barbecues, picnics and camping. Here are some tips to help you protect yourself.
Keep your food cold.
The germs responsible for food poisoning proliferate rapidly when temperatures are higher than 4°C (40°F). Keep your food cold and never leave food at room temperature for longer than an hour during hot summer days. If you do not have access to a refrigerator, use a cooler filled with ice or ice packs to keep food fresh. The temperature inside should be equal or inferior to 4°C. Keep the cooler out of direct sunlight (in the shade of a tree, for example) and avoid opening it too often. The best trick to keep your food cold longer is to use one cooler for food and another for drinks.
Clean everything carefully.
One of the best ways to prevent food poisoning is to respect the same cleaning rules outside and inside the house. Wash your hands with hot, soapy water for 20 seconds before touching food, and also after touching raw meat, poultry or seafood, after changing a diaper, after touching a pet or after going to the bathroom. Also, clean all your utensils, dishes and surfaces (table, cutting board, etc.) with hot, soapy water. If you don’t have soap and water, you can use disposable cloths and/or disinfectant lotions and paper towels.
Separate to prevent cross-contamination.
Always be sure to separate raw and cooked foods to prevent cross-contamination. For example, use a clean plate to transfer food that is on the barbecue! When you place food inside a cooler for your outings, make sure that raw meat, chicken, fish and seafood are hermetically sealed so that they don’t leak. To do so, use tupperwares or resealable plastic bags. As a precaution, place raw meat, chicken, fish and seafood at the bottom of the cooler so that if they do leak, they will not do so on top of other items. Even better, use a separate cooler for these foods.
Cook your meat thoroughly.
Make sure that you kill harmful bacteria such as E.coli, salmonella and listeria by cooking your food thoroughly. To be sure, use a digital food thermometer. Visual clues, such as colour, do not indicate that meat or chicken is ready to be eaten. Safe cooking temperatures are, for example, at least 71°C for ground beef and 85°C for a whole chicken. Finally, if you need to check the temperature more than once, clean the thermometer before reusing it.
Did you know?
Each year, approximately one out of eight Canadians (or about four million people) is victim of food poisoning, also called foodborne illness.
Don’t forget, the rule is simple: if you have doubts about whether food is safe or not, throw it out!
If, despite all your precautions, you think you might be suffering from food poisoning, don’t hesitate to speak to your pharmacist or your doctor, who will be able to recommend the right treatment depending on the cause and the seriousness of your case.