When we think about food poisoning, we normally think about it happening to us when we eat out, but according to statistics released by the British Food Standards Agency, a large proportion of food poisoning incidents that occur in the UK each year actually occur from food that’s been cooked in the home.
There are more than 500,000 cases of food poisoning a year from known pathogens. This figure would more than double if it included food poisoning cases from unknown pathogens.
Campylobacter was the most common foodborne pathogen, with about 280,000 cases every year. The next most common pathogen was Clostridium Perfringens with 80,000 cases, and norovirus was third with an estimated 74,000 cases. Salmonella is the pathogen that causes the most hospital admissions – about 2,500 each year.
Poultry meat was the food linked to the most cases of food poisoning, with an estimated 244,000 cases every year.
After poultry, produce including vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, caused the second highest number of cases of illness (an estimated 48,000 cases), while beef and lamb were third (an estimated 43,000 cases).
So, how can food poisoning be avoided? This article outlines the top five ways that you can clamp down on the spread of bacteria that leads to food poisoning in your own kitchen.
1. Wash your hands again, again, and again
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2. Keep your raw meat and vegetables separate
When you’re storing your groceries, it’s very important to keep raw meat far away from ready-to-eat foods such as salad, bread and fruit. This is because ready-to-eat foods are not cooked before consumption, so any bacteria that gets on them isn’t going to be killed off during the cooking process, which happens with raw food. Keeping these foods separate is a major step to ensuring that your kitchen is a safe and hygienic environment.
3. Check your fridge temperature is below 5°C
Bacteria is a bit like fire: It needs heat, fuel and oxygen in order to grow. Keeping your fridge below 5°C helps ensure that bacteria doesn’t have the heat factor in this “deadly triangle”. Keeping food at a low temperature ensures that bacteria can’t breed and that your food is kept safe, so be sure to check your fridge’s temperature after you pop food in there, especially meats.
4. Cool your leftovers quickly
Leftovers are the best part of a meal – but to make sure you enjoy it, it’s very important to cool them really quickly. Cooling leftovers within 90 minutes of them being prepared and then popping it in the fridge or freezer immediately after that is the best way to ensure that your delicious leftovers will still be good for the next two days. Also, as a general rule, use up any leftovers in the fridge within a couple of days.
5. Don’t reheat meat more than once
When you’re feeling peckish and you make your way to the fridge to eat your yummy, cooled leftovers, make sure that you don’t overdo it. If your leftovers include meat, ensure that you don’t heat them up more than once. Continuously heating and cooling meat allows for bacteria to form and spread across the dish, which can cause illness. If you’ve got a lot of leftovers, the best thing to do is to only heat up the portion that you’re planning to eat, rather than the entire dish.
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