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How Can I Prevent Food Contamination and Food Poisoning?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 07 September 2016
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There are a number of different ways in which you can prevent food contamination and food poisoning depending on if you are preparing food or ordering food at a restaurant. If you are preparing food, then you should be sure to practice clean and safe cooking habits to avoid cross-contamination among foods, cook certain foods to temperatures necessary for safe eating, and ensure cold foods are stored with proper refrigeration to keep them safe. In order to avoid food contamination and food poisoning while dining out, you should choose restaurants carefully, order food properly, and only eat food that is served in a way that is safe.

Food contamination and food poisoning are often caused by bacteria and similar microbial sources that can end up on food in many different ways. If you are preparing food, then you should be cautious to avoid cross-contamination. For example, you shouldn't cut turkey, then use that unclean knife to cut lettuce for a salad, because you can introduce bacteria into the salad from the raw poultry. The turkey is going to be cooked to eliminate possible dangers, but a salad served raw is a perfect delivery system for bacteria. You can avoid this danger by preventing cross-contamination and always cleaning surfaces and cooking instruments between uses.

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Many foods should also be cooked to a proper temperature before serving. Meats like poultry, pork, and beef as well as eggs and seafood should all be cooked to the proper temperature to ensure any bacteria present on them are eliminated. Foods served cold should be properly refrigerated at a low temperature to keep bacteria from developing and thriving. This is especially important for dishes like egg or ham salad, in which mayonnaise and other ingredients should be kept cold prior to serving.

Food contamination and food poisoning should also be a consideration whenever you are dining out at a restaurant. You should be sure to choose restaurants carefully, and you may want to look into the most recent health inspection for a restaurant before dining in it. Even if a restaurant has passed inspection, you should still be wary and leave if you see indications of unsanitary conditions.

As you are ordering food at a restaurant, you should also consider ways to avoid food illnesses. If you are pregnant, elderly, or ordering for a child, then you should avoid certain foods such as undercooked meat, as you may be more vulnerable to bacteria like Listeria. You should always order dishes cooked to a safe temperature, and send back food that you deem undercooked or unsafe for consumption.

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KoiwiGal
Post 3

@Iluviaporos - Generally, I think the safest course is always to eat food quickly rather than trying to store it for too long. Unless it's something that is guaranteed to keep for a long time, like canned food and even then you have to use your common sense. Even canned food can be contaminated or go off.

Generally, if something looks wrong, or smells wrong or tastes wrong, just don't risk it. Human senses might not be as keen as animal senses, but we have evolved to know when something isn't right as long as the taste or smell isn't masked by other things.

On the other hand, if something like milk is slightly past the best by date and still

looks and smells OK, then don't worry too much about drinking it. In that case, you would be able to tell if there was something wrong because everyone knows the smell of sour milk (and sour milk isn't that bad for you).
lluviaporos
Post 2

@pleonasm - It does depend on the kind of food though. Hard cheeses are generally going to be OK if they get a little bit moldy because the threads can't get through the cheese. Unless they have been grated or cut, obviously although I can't imagine many people would risk trying to get the moldy parts out of grated cheese.

Oh, and of course, blue cheese does have mold on it, but it's a safe kind so that won't poison you. Of course, you have to be extra careful not to let it get contaminated by other types of mold, so don't keep it for too long.

pleonasm
Post 1

I know it's tempting to just cut off moldy parts and eat the food anyway, but the thing is, mold often puts down fibers like roots that aren't easy to see. So you might think you've got it all, but you've missed part of it. It can also produce toxins that aren't completely obvious either. In fact, that's what penicillin actually is. It's not the mold itself, it's the toxin a particular mold produces to protect itself from bacteria.

So if you don't want to have to throw the food out you have to wrap it carefully and make sure it doesn't get moldy in the first place.

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