How to Prevent Food Poisoning

Rather than wait for an outbreak to be identified, here’s a refresher on food safety.

The CDC recently published research that said that the most foodborne disease outbreaks result from contaminated poultry, beef, and leafy vegetables though the source “often cannot be determined or confirmed.” Any food, including vegetables, may become contaminated. The two main foodborne agents seen were norovirus, caused mainly by handlers not washing their hands, and salmonella, which often occurs in food contaminated with feces. The risk of both of these can be minimized with proper preparation, cooking and storage. Rather than wait for an outbreak to be identified, here’s a refresher on food safety.

Wash your hands. Wash your hands with soap in hot water for at least 20 seconds before handling food.

Cook all foods properly. Check out for proper cooking times for all types of meat and poultry.

Avoid cross-contamination and choose wood. Wash everything that touches raw meat, including your hands. Use two cutting boards properly labeled: one for meat and one for produce. Also, a study of wooden versus plastic cutting boards concluded that the wood surface, though porous, drew the bacteria deeper into the board where they die and become harmless.

Refrigerate leftovers. You don’t need to wait until the food reaches room temperature. Never leave food out for more than two hours. If it’s summer and 90 degrees outside, then one hour is the max. Separate a large amount of food into smaller containers so it cools faster or stir it over an ice bath as suggested in this food safely question at

Wash produce thoroughly and check your fruit.

1. Check for bruises
2. Do not buy unrefrigerated pre-cut produce.
3. Wash and scrub with a vegetable brush under running water.
4. Do not leave cut produce at room temperature.

Don’t forget your pets. The same rules apply. Do not cross contaminate. Do not purchase expired food. Wash your hands after petting your animal and preparing food. See more safety tips on handling pet food.

Most important: When in doubt, throw it out! There is no amount of money spent on groceries worth your family’s safety. Check out for more tips and be sure to follow the Twitter feed for frequent updates.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest