04 December 2018

7 ways to avoid food poisoning this summer

Hot weather and too much partying can make you sick to your stomach, but there’s nothing quite like food poisoning to spoil the holiday season.

Whether you're attending an office party, cooking for family and friends, or dining out, the warmer weather can increase your risk of catching a foodborne illness.

According to a previous Health24 article, food poisoning is usually caused by consuming food contaminated by bacteria, parasites or viruses. The most common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal cramps.

Hot summer weather provides the perfect conditions for harmful organisms to breed. Here are some tips to avoid getting sick:

1. Wash your hands

Wash your hands properly with soap and water before and after handling food, especially raw meat, eggs and fresh produce. This will not only reduce your risk of getting food poisoning or cross-contaminating foods with harmful bacteria, but will also reduce your risk of catching the norovirus (a stomach bug).

family washing hands

2. Use separate chopping boards

Avoid cross-contamination by using separate chopping boards for raw meat, raw produce and ready-to-eat foods. Wash cutting boards immediately after using them.

man chopping food

3. Keep your kitchen clean

This seems like obvious advice, but things get busy over the festive season and we don’t pay enough attention to wiping working surfaces or washing dish towels. Kitchen counters and dish towels are notorious for harbouring nasty bacteria. Give the kitchen a quick, yet thorough daily clean to prevent bacteria from gaining a foothold.

cleaning the kitchen

4. Plan your shopping carefully

When doing your shopping, do your grocery shopping last to avoid raw meat and fresh produce going off. Keep a cooler bag in the car to ensure that perishable items stay cool.

Couple shopping for groceries

5. Take care when camping or picnicking

The outdoors can be idyllic but risky when it comes to preparing food. Keep raw meat, fresh produce and dairy products as cool as possible and out of direct sunlight. Make sure that all meat you braai is cooked through, especially chicken and pork. The following temperatures are recommended to ensure that harmful bacteria are killed: 63°C for beef, lamb and pork and 74°C for poultry. If you have no access to fridges, go for non-perishable foods or keep meat frozen until it is cooked. 

Family going on camping trip

6. Store leftovers properly

It’s great to look forward to tasty leftovers, but ensure that you store food properly and consume it within four days. Reheat food at a high temperature, make sure it’s heated throughout, and don’t reheat leftovers more than once, as fluctuations in temperature can cause bacteria to grow. 

Leftovers in fridge

7. Organise your fridge properly

When you buy a larger amount of groceries than usual during the festive season, you might be tempted to simply stash everything in the fridge as you find space. But you need to keep raw meat well away from fresh fruits and vegetables and other cold items such as ready-made salads, as juices from raw meat can drip onto other food and cause cross-contamination. Store raw meat on the bottom shelf of the fridge to avoid dripping or spillage. Never overfill your fridge as this can affect the temperature.

Worried about load shedding or an unplanned power outage in your area? Keep plastic ice blocks in your refrigerator to help keep produce colder for longer and don’t open and close the refrigerator door more than necessary. Make sure the seals on the doors are in good condition, as broken seals can allow cold air to escape. A freezer in good working condition should be able to hold its temperature for around 48 hours.

Woman putting food in fridge

Image credit: iStock