Whether you buy organic, local, non-GMO or local, and shop at Whole Foods or the famers’ market, you and your kids can still be at risk for food poisoning.
According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 48 million people each year get sick from foodborne illness from exposure to germs like norovirus, salmonella, E. coli and listeria.
Pregnant women and children under age 5 in particular, have some of the highest risk for food poisoning.
Kids’ immune systems are still developing so they can’t fight off germs and illness as well as older children can. Food poisoning is also a particular concern for young kids because diarrhea and dehydration can land them in the hospital.
When it comes to pregnant women, they’re 10 times more likely to get a listeria infection than women who are not. Pregnant women who are Hispanic are 24 times more likely to be affected.
Contamination can happen at any time along the food journey to your kitchen table, but there are several ways to prevent the spread of germs.
Here, learn about the food safety tips that can prevent food poisoning.
1. Check restaurant health ratings
According to a 2018 poll conducted by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan, one in 10 parents say their kids have gotten sick from spoiled or contaminated food and 68 percent attributed the food poisoning to eating out in a restaurant.
One of the best ways to prevent food poisoning when eating out is to check health inspection ratings—something only 25 percent of parents do, the same poll found.
To review health inspection ratings, check with your local or county health department or try the What The Health app.
2. Clean out your refrigerator
Before you leave to go to the grocery store, go through your refrigerator and throw out food that has gone bad and shouldn’t be eaten.
Food that has mold, smells unpleasant, or whose color or texture has changed should be tossed.
Leftovers that have been cooked should be thrown away after 4 days and raw chicken and meat after 1 to 2 days.
It’s also a good idea to know what the dates on food packaging mean to prevent food waste.
3. Do grocery shopping in this order
When you run errands, try to do all of your regular errands first and leave your grocery shopping until the end so you can take your groceries home immediately and prevent food from spoiling.
Also, consider bringing an insulated bag with an ice pack to transport cold, perishable food items.
4. Keep meat and fish separate
At checkout, place raw meat and fish in plastic bags to prevent spreading germs to other foods.
When you arrive home, store these foods on a plate or in a shallow pan on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator and away from ready to eat foods.
5. Wash your hands before preparing food
Before you handle food, be sure to thoroughly wash all surfaces of your hands with warm or hot water and soap for at least 20 seconds.
After handling raw chicken, wash your hands before moving on to other foods to prevent the spread of bacteria.
6. Use designated cutting boards
It’s a good idea to use one cutting board solely for fruits and vegetables and one for raw meat, poultry and fish.
7. Wash and sanitize cutting boards
Scrub cutting boards after each use with hot, soapy water, especially after preparing raw meat, fish and poultry.
To deep clean cutting boards, scrub them with a paste of baking soda, salt and water and wipe them with full strength white vinegar to disinfect.
Rubbing a sliced lemon on the boards also helps to sanitize them and remove odors.
8. Always rinse fruits and vegetables
Always rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water and consider using a produce brush to remove dirt and debris.
If you plan to peel fruit, you should still rinse it before eating it to prevent germs from contaminating the inside flesh.
Ready to go, pre-chopped produce like bagged salad and cut up vegetables that aren’t labeled pre-washed should always be washed at home.
9. Defrost foods properly
Never leave food out on the kitchen countertop or in the sink to defrost.
Instead, thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator on the bottom shelf on a plate or a shallow pan. You can also defrost foods in the microwave but they should be cooked right away.
10. Cook foods thoroughly
Instead of making a judgment call about whether meat, poultry and fish are ready to eat just by looking at them, use a food thermometer to ensure they’re thoroughly cooked.
Unsure of the right temp? NSF International has a handy chart.
11. Serve food at safe thermometers
Cold foods should be served at 40º F or below while hot foods should be stored at 140ºF or above.
When foods are left out and in the “danger zone” range between 40º F and 140º F, they’re only safe to eat for 2 hours or 1 hour in temperatures above 90 degrees.