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15 August 2017

How to prevent food poisoning

Most of us have had a nasty bout of food poisoning, but there are ways to reduce the risk.

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Reports suggest that, in South Africa, acute poisoning is responsible for up to 17% of total ward admissions in children. And according to statistics, in 2010 5% of all deaths in South Africa were the result of food poisoning-related complications.

A Health24 article states that food poisoning is usually caused by the consumption of food that is contaminated by bacteria, parasites or viruses. The most common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal cramps.

Food poisoning can be fatal

Food poisoning usually clears up by itself, but can be deadly because of dehydration or respiratory problems, especially in the elderly, children and pregnant women, or when someone's immune system is compromised.

Instances of food poisoning often happen in our own homes. It's very likely that you can think of at least one incident that made you never want to touch a certain food again. 

Food safety often questioned

Then there are incidents that make us question food safety. In 2015, News24 reported that 56 people were taken to Pietermaritzburg hospitals after showing signs of food poisoning at school. But many such episodes can be prevented, and proper sanitation when handling food is key, experts say. 

"If all of us washed our hands and were careful with food, it would greatly reduce the number of infections we see," said Dr Ross Rodgers, an emergency medicine physician at Penn State Medical Center.

Food poisoning can be avoided

Rodgers offered these tips in a hospital news release:

1. Discard leftover marinade

Never use leftover marinade on cooked foods, and don't use utensils that have touched uncooked food to serve prepared items.

 raw chicken in marinade

2. Ensure that meat is cooked at the proper temperature

Use a meat thermometer to ensure that meat is cooked to a safe temperature. (That's 63°C for beef, veal and lamb steaks, roasts or chops; 71°C for ground meat and meat mixtures; and 74°C degrees for poultry, according to the US website Foodsafety.gov.)

 meat thermometer in steak

3. Wash those vegetables

While many people try to be careful with raw meat, seafood, poultry and eggs, disease-causing viruses and bacteria also can be present on fresh produce and other types of food. Always wash produce and leafy greens.

 washing lettuce

4. Steer clear of dodgy restaurants

When eating out, try to assess the cleanliness of a restaurant. "If the place seems clean and tidy, they probably follow good practices with their food. If it looks a bit shady, I would move to another place," Rodgers said. If possible, check the restaurant's health inspection information.

chef preparing food

You can contact the Tygerberg Poison Information Centre on their 24 hour emergency number (0861 555 777) if you suspect you or someone in your family has ingested a poisonous substance. 

Images provided by iStock

 
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