Food poisoning is a nuisance most people would be glad to be rid of. It can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and other unpleasant side effects. While this definitely isn’t fun for anyone, for some food poisoning can be deadly or lead to long-term debilitating illness. Young children, the elderly, the immunocompromised, and those who are pregnant or who suffer from chronic health issues are at a high risk. No matter how much you wash and clean your produce, some foods are naturally more likely to be carriers of Salmonella, E.coli, cyclospora, and more.
Uncooked meats, dairy, vegetables, and produce are all at risk of being contaminated with food poisoning. As such, when you are cooking, always cook raw/uncooked products to safe, well-regulated temperatures. For all chicken and turkey products, this is 165 degrees Fahrenheit internally, while for fish and whole cuts of beef and pork, it is 145. And last, but not least in the meat department, for ground beef, veal, and any product containing eggs, it is 160 degrees. Uncooked/untreated meats and seafood, such as raw sushi, ceviche, oysters and tartare, for examples, should be avoided by anyone in these high-risk groups.
Unpasteurized products such as goat’s milk, eggs, heavy cream, and raw yogurts should not be consumed by people in the high-risk categories. Instead, eat these products when they contain only pasteurized milk and eggs in order to avoid risky pathogens. Other foods such as soft cheeses, for example feta and brie, or cold cut meats, are dangerous to these individuals (especially pregnant women) due to risk of listeria. Instead of the soft cheeses, eat hard cheeses, such as mozzarella, swill cheese, and the cheddar family. Furthermore, when it comes to eggs, never eat them raw. If a recipe calls for raw eggs, use pasteurized eggs/egg product. And if you are tempted to eat the cookie dough before baking the cookies, buy edible cookie dough or make sure all the product (yes, including the flour) has been treated!
With dairy products, it is also especially important to be cognizant of the expiration dates.
Another group of at-risk foods are unwashed vegetables, especially sprouts. Sprouts have a long history of being the source of food poisoning outbreaks, mostly due to the conditions they are grown in. Since they are grown close to the ground and in warm, humid weather, bacteria flourishes. And if these vegetables aren’t washed and handled properly, then bacteria such as Salmonella or E.coli can rapidly spread and, when consumed, can lead to serious gastroenteritis. If you plan on eating sprouts, then it is best that they are cooked first. Because this often renders them undesirable, most people in the high-risk category, should likely remove them from the list of foods they eat. This also goes for any other vegetable, but if you plan on eating vegetables raw such as lettuce in a salad mix, then wash the produce thoroughly before consumption. Because food safety is important, even if the produce mentioned above already comes “pre-washed”, rinse the product thoroughly.
Finally, the most obvious. Wash your hands carefully and often when dealing with raw foods. Always cook foods to safe temperatures – which means a food thermometer is important. Confirm whether you have cooked the product to the proper temperature, and let cooked meats “rest” for a few minutes before cutting or serving, to allow the heat and moisture to settle.
Always follow proper food safety regulations and pay attention to updates released here on food poisoning outbreaks that could impact your family!