Anyone can get sick from food poisoning. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in six Americans gets sick from foodborne illness.
Whether you experience a mild discomfort (i.e. upset stomach) or require a trip to the hospital depends on how strong your immune system is. For more information on combatting food poisoning and maintaining a healthy digestive system, contact the top gastroenterologist in Los Angeles, Dr. Siamak Tabib.
While we cannot always prevent food poisoning, we can reduce the risk by following these food safety precautions:
1. Be Grocery Savvy
When grocery shopping, shop for frozen goods last. This allows perishable foods to stay cold for much longer until it’s time to store them in the fridge. Use separate bags for raw meats and for other grocery items to avoid cross-contamination.
And always check food labels for use-by dates. Although the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service maintains that best-by and use-by dates are not indications of food safety, it’s better to err on the side of caution and follow the dates on the label.
2. Make Washing a Habit
Washing your hands thoroughly before food preparation could reduce the risk of food contamination. Follow proper hand washing techniques to remove dirt and bacteria from your hands.
When it comes to produce, it’s always a good idea to give them a good wash whether you peel them or not. The exception to the rule is with salad greens—these are already pre-washed and washing them at home could introduce new bacteria and pathogens.
Cutting boards and countertops also need to be washed especially when handling raw meat. Bacteria could spread onto surfaces and cause cross-contamination.
3. Cook Foods Thoroughly
Raw meats like chicken and ground beef have the highest severity index in terms of food poisoning, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest report.
Just because a meat has browned doesn’t mean that it’s properly cooked. Use a food thermometer when cooking meats to ensure that it meets the minimum internal temperature for doneness.
4. Store Leftovers Properly
Holidays and other special occasions often leave us with a surplus of food. To avoid foodborne illnesses, refrigerate leftovers within two hours after they are cooked. This reduces the risk of bacterial growth.
Keep refrigerator temperature at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below when storing cold perishable foods. To cool food rapidly, divide them into smaller batches or pieces and place them in shallow containers. The cold temperature prevents bacterial growth.
When it’s time to thaw out frozen foods, make sure to do it safely. A microwave provides the fastest way to thaw out leftovers, but see to it that the heat reaches the safe temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Alternatively, you can reheat leftovers in a saucepan.
5. Know When to Throw Out Food
You may feel bad about throwing out food, but sometimes leftovers are no longer safe to eat. Food spoils easily when left at room temperature. Even if you refrigerate them, there is no guarantee that they will remain fresh for long. Most foods have telltale signs of spoilage (i.e. funny smell, different texture, presence of molds), but some do not so use your better judgment on when to throw out leftovers.
Gastroenterologist in Los Angeles
Following food safety practices helps in reducing the likelihood of food poisoning. But in the event that you or a family member experience the symptoms (e.g. diarrhea and vomiting) of food poisoning, seek the help of a medical professional to get immediate treatment.
Dr. Siamak Tabib, M.D. is a prominent gastroenterologist in Los Angeles who treats food poisoning and other digestive tract problems. Also known as the “stomach doctor”, he provides diagnostic and therapeutic procedures and educates patients on how to prevent diseases. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Siamak Tabib, M.D. today.