How can I prevent food poisoning?
The Foods Standards Agency in the UK has identified the "4 Cs" to help prevent food poisoning:
- Keep work surfaces and utensils clean.
- Wash and dry your hands regularly but especially after going to the toilet, before preparing food, after handling raw food and before touching "ready-to-eat" food.
- Don't prepare food for others if you have diarrhoea or are being sick (vomiting).
- Cover any sores or cuts on hands with a waterproof plaster before you touch food.
- Change dishcloths and tea towels regularly.
- Make sure that you cook food thoroughly, especially meat. This will kill germs (bacteria). Food should be cooked right through and be piping hot in the middle.
- If you are reheating food, it needs to be cooked right through and be piping hot in the middle.
- Don't reheat food more than once.
- Food that needs to be chilled or refrigerated should be. If food is left out of the fridge, bacteria may multiply to levels that can cause food poisoning.
- Your fridge needs to be kept between 0°C and 5°C. Also, don't leave the door open unnecessarily.
- Cool leftover food quickly and then refrigerate. Taking it out of the cooking pot and putting it into a shallow container can speed up the cooling process.
This occurs when bacteria pass from foods (commonly, raw foods) to other foods. It can occur if:
- Foods touch directly.
- One food drips on to another.
- Your hands or utensils or equipment such as knives or chopping boards touch one food and then another.
It is important to:
- Wash your hands after touching raw foods.
- Separate raw and cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
- Keep raw meat in a sealable container at the bottom of the fridge.
- Avoid using the same surface or chopping board for preparing raw and ready-to-eat foods.
- Make sure that knives and utensils are cleaned after preparing raw foods.
Preventing the spread of food poisoning to others
Some infections causing diarrhoea and vomiting are very easily passed on from person to person. If you have diarrhoea, the following are also recommended to prevent the spread of infection to others:
- Wash your hands thoroughly after going to the toilet. Ideally, use liquid soap in warm running water but any soap is better than none. Dry properly after washing.
- Don't share towels and flannels.
- Don't prepare or serve food for others.
- Regularly clean the toilets that you use. Wipe the flush handle, toilet seat, bathroom taps, surfaces and door handles with hot water and detergent at least once a day. Keep a cloth just for cleaning the toilet (or use a disposable one each time).
- Stay off work, college, etc, until at least 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea or vomiting.
- Food handlers: if you work with food and develop diarrhoea or vomiting, you must immediately leave the food-handling area. For most, no other measures are needed, other than staying away from work until at least 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea or vomiting. Some special situations may arise and sometimes longer time off is needed. If in doubt, seek advice from your employer or GP.
- If the cause of food poisoning is known to be (or suspected to be) a germ called cryptosporidium, you should not swim in swimming pools for two weeks after the last episode of diarrhoea.
Further reading and references
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