Avoid Food Poisoning: High-Risk and Low-Risk Foods

Avoid food poisoning by always observing some simple rules about food preparation:

  • Wash your hands

Before you begin to handle food, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and warm water. During food preparation, if you handle raw meat, fish or eggs, wash them again. This will prevent the transfer of bacteria on the raw met to other foods, such as salad ingredients, that will not be cooked.

  • Temperature and refrigeration

Cook all meats and fish thoroughly to kill bacteria and any parasites. Eggs should never be consumed raw. If any high-risk food is left out at temperatures exceeding 90 degrees for more than two hours at most, throw it away. Refrigerate all perishable leftover foods within two hours of preparation.

  • Trust your nose and use your eyes

If any food smells off, don’t guess. Discard it. If you’re in a restaurant and your meat looks undercooked, don’t hesitate to send it back. Make sure they return the properly cooked meat on a fresh plate, too.

High-Risk Foods

Although any food can serve as a vehicle for bacteria and parasites under certain conditions, there are definitely some foods more likely to cause food poisoning than others. Here are some top contenders:

1. Alfalfa sprouts can easily become contaminated from the ground with bacteria that then thrive on the alfalfa’s high moisture content.

2. Berries are a healthy food, but because bacteria, dirt and toxins can become trapped in the berries’ folds and fissures, these food items must be carefully washed before eating.

3. Eggs are inherently dangerous because salmonella bacteria are involved in the the eggs’ shell formation process. Never eat raw eggs.

4. Ground meat is more likely to be contaminated with bacteria when compared to whole meat cuts. This is because surface bacteria become distributed throughout the ground meat during the grinding process. A whole piece of meat may have surface bacteria, of course, but this is much easier to wash off, and such bacteria is easier to kill during cooking.

5. Deli meats and soft cheeses like brie can carry the dangerous listeria bacterium. Avoid these during pregnancy.

6. Rice! Surprised? Rice actually naturally carries bacteria on its surface that can even survive cooking. It’s not generally a problem if the rice is consumed immediately after cooking, but rice left out at room temperature for more than two hours can become contaminated with very high numbers of bacteria that can make you sick.

Low-Risk Foods

Here are some low-risk foods:

1. Most fresh vegetables and fruits, especially citrus fruits which must be peeled before eating. However, tomatoes often carry high bacteria levels on their skins. Wash raw tomatoes carefully before eating.

2. Pickles

3. Syrups, jams and jellies

4. Honey for adults. Never give honey to a child under one year of age. It can cause a type of botulism poisoning in babies with immune systems not yet fully mature. Honey is not a problem for adults and older children.

5. Candies

6. Bread and baked goods

7. Beef and turkey jerky

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