It is possible for bacteria and viruses to live on or in your food. Because these microorganisms cannot be seen, detection is not always possible. When eaten, food that contains bacteria or viruses can cause symptoms such as upset stomach, fever, headache, diarrhea, vomiting, sore muscles, double vision and worse problems depending on the specific microorganism in the food. The best way to prevent a food borne illness is to follow standard safety guidelines while handling and preparing food.
Select your food carefully
Selecting your food carefully can help prevent bringing food bacteria and viruses into your home. Don't buy food in damaged containers that leak, bulge or are severely dented or whose lids are cracked or bulging. Purchase only as much produce as you will use in one week. Avoid precut greens that look slimy. Select pasteurized milk products.
Store your food properly
Storing your food properly can prevent the growth and spread of any bacteria or viruses that may be present in your food supply. When purchasing, select frozen and refrigerated foods last. Ensure meat is wrapped in a way that prevents leaking juices on other food items. Do not store your groceries in a warm car. Promptly refrigerate foods after purchase. Be sure your refrigerator is 40 degrees or less. Store refrigerated meats within one or two days, frozen meats within 3 to 4 months. When in doubt, throw it out.
Prepare your food smartly
Using proper food preparation techniques helps to prevent the spread of bacteria to other foods that may not be cooked to kill the bacteria. Wash your hands with hot soapy water before and after handling food. Keep counters, cutting boards, dishes and other cooking equipment clean. Thaw your food in the refrigerator, under cold running water or in the microwave. Cook foods promptly after thawing. Use the refrigerator to marinate. Wash fruits and vegetables under running water. Completely remove parts of food that have mold, or discard the entire piece of food.
Cook your food thoroughly
Cooking your food thoroughly is the most reliable way to kill any viruses or bacteria that may be present. A good rule of thumb is to eat no raw animal products. Meats should be cooked to a specific temperature to ensure doneness. Eggs should be prepared so the yolk and white are both fully cooked. Do not use unpasturized dairy products in non-cooked foods such as ice cream or mayonnaise.
One foodborne bacteria called listeria, can live and grow at refrigerator temperatures. It is the cause of listeriosis, which can result in miscarriage, fetal death or severe illness or death of a newborn. It may be found in perishable ready-to-eat foods. To reduce your risk for this bacteria, be sure to store perishable pre-cooked items at 40 degrees or less and clean your refrigerator regularly.
Foods with the greatest risk of listeriosis should be thoroughly cooked or avoided. These foods include:
- Hot dogs and lunch meats
- Soft-chesses made with unpasteurized milk
- Refrigerated pates and spreads
- Refrigerated smoked sea-food
- Unpasteurized milk