Nobody likes that feeling in their stomach when they realize they shouldn’t have eaten at that funky place last night…
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in 6 Americans — about 48 million people — get sick from food-borne illnesses every year. And some cases can be severe — with 128,000 people hospitalized and about 3,000 dying from consuming contaminated food.
While food poisoning can sometimes be out of your control, there are some precautions you can take to help you avoid getting sick.
Five easiest ways to avoid food poisoning
1. Do not leave food out
This is a very simple way to not get food poisoning. The longer you leave certain foods out of refrigeration and at room temperature, the more likely they are to attract bacteria. One culprit is bacillus, a bacteria that multiplies and produces toxins at room temperature. It is commonly found in rice, soups, sauces and leftover food.
2. Be careful with raw poultry
According to bacteriologist Andrew Roe from the University of Glasgow, ‘At least half of all raw chicken carcasses carry significant levels of campylobacter.’ It is a chicken-loving bacteria and Roe says that more than 500,000 cases of food poisoning in the U.K. are caused by this type of bacteria. Roe also says that ‘four out of five cases [of food poisoning] are from contaminated poultry.’
The best way to avoid getting sick from poultry is to thoroughly wash your hands before and after handling raw meat and make sure to disinfect any surfaces it may have touched. You should also store raw meat on the bottom shelf of the fridge to keep any juices from leaking on to other foods.
Also, skip rinsing poultry before it’s cooked. When you wash it, it’s more likely to spread any bacteria to other surfaces. Cooking meat at the proper temperature will remove any bacteria.
Read more: 4 food safety mistakes to avoid at home
3. Minced meats can bring peril
The danger with minced lies mostly on the inside. When meats gets mixed and grinded together, there is an increased likelihood that surface bacteria will get deep inside the meat. That’s why steaks can often be a safer choice — the contamination would only be on the surface, but is more likely to get eliminated if cooked well on the outside.
A solution for those eating out and hankering for a burger is to order it well-done and don’t be afraid to send it back if it isn’t cooked thoroughly.
4. Always wash your fruit
Fruit account for a big percentage of food-borne illnesses, according to a 2013 study by the CDC. In fact, 46% of the food-borne illnesses in that study were caused by fruits, vegetables and nuts.
It’s important to always wash your fruit — even with soap and water — to ensure the outside is totally clean. If a fruit is sliced open before being washed, the bacteria can get inside and contaminate the rest of the fruit. It also doesn’t hurt to wash it again after cutting, as an extra precaution.
5. Reheat leftovers properly
We’ve already talked about the dangers of leaving leftover food out too long, but once you’ve properly refrigerated it and are ready to heat it back up, make sure you’re doing it safely.
The best way to bring a meal back to life safely is to make sure that it is actually steaming when heated up. This is to ensure that any returning bacteria is killed and won’t make a home in your stomach.