A food thermometer helps accurately gauge food to prevent illness from undercooking.
Stomach bugs are rarely pleasant. Such bugs can last several days and result in missed school or work and even turn into something more serious, like dehydration. Many stomach bugs, whether they are the result of a virus or germs brought home from school, may be the result of poorly handled food.
Food borne illnesses cause about 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,200 deaths nationwide each year, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Under the right conditions, various bacteria can proliferate in food and result in bugs characterized by bouts of nausea or vomiting.
While many food-related ailments are innocuous, one never knows when something ominous could be lurking in the foods one has eaten. In many cases, preventing food-related illness needs to begin even before food is brought into the home.
At the store
Shop at stores that take proper food handling seriously. Look for clean stores that properly refrigerate foods.
Inspect frozen or refrigerated foods to make sure nothing appears open or tampered with. If food is packed in clear wrapping, check to see that the food does not have a lot of ice crystals, which may mean it thawed out and then was refrozen. Select canned foods that are in packages without dents or bulges. Dents may compromise the can’s seam and let in contaminants, while bulges may indicate improper sealing or processing, contaminating the food inside the can.
Shop for perishable foods last so you minimize the amount of time they are without refrigeration. If you expect that it will take you longer than an hour to get home, consider transporting foods in insulated bags or a cooler to preserve their freshness.
Do not leave foods that need to be chilled sitting out for long periods of time. Refrigerate and freeze foods promptly after unpacking them from the store or after a meal is over. When defrosting foods, do not do so on the kitchen counter. Instead, use the refrigerator or run frozen packages under water.
All fresh produce should be rinsed thoroughly before use, even if stores say the foods have already been washed. Produce can retain bacteria from the fields where it was grown. Also wash the skins or rinds of foods before peeling or slicing, or you may transfer bacteria to the flesh of the food.
Wash and disinfect hands, utensils, cutting boards, and any other surfaces after handling raw meats and poultry. Try to contain juices from meats so they do not get all over countertops. Always use separate utensils for preparing uncooked meats and produce.
Cook foods to the recommended temperature and check with a food thermometer. Keep in mind that some foods may cook unevenly, especially in microwaves. Stir and keep cooking to ensure even heat distribution.
Do not overload the refrigerator and freezer; otherwise they may not chill foods sufficiently. Check that the appliance is working properly.
Avoiding food borne illnesses requires diligence at the store and at home. With care, members of the household can remain healthy.