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Avoiding foodborne illness

Many of us prepare and store food on a daily basis – and manage to steer clear of foodborne illness (also known as food poisoning). But are you avoiding trouble by skill or by chance? Brush up on the following tips and rule out some hazards in the kitchen.

Storing goods

Keep pantry items (such as packages of cereal or pasta) in sealed containers on a clean, dry shelf. Keep the pantry clean and make sure no food spills or sits on the floor. Maintain your fridge temperature below 4°C (40°F) and your freezer temperature below -18°C (0°F) – this will help avoid spoilage. Place raw meat and fish in their original packaging on trays at the bottom shelf of the fridge so that juices cannot spill or drip onto other food. This helps prevent contamination in the fridge. So does regular cleaning of the fridge and freezer.

If you're storing eggs, keep them in their original carton and not in the egg tray in the door (which won't keep them cold enough). If you notice any cracked eggs, cook them as soon as possible.

Refrigerate or freeze leftovers in containers as soon as possible after cooking. Some leftovers will keep longer than others.

Working with food

Wash your hands! Always wash your hands before and after handling raw food. Using warm water, make sure to lather your hands with soap for at least 30 seconds, and don't forget to thoroughly wash your thumbs and in between your fingers.

Remove rings and bracelets before handling raw food. As well, keep counter-tops and sinks clean and disinfect them regularly. Don't forget to sanitize high-traffic areas such as taps or the refrigerator and oven doors. When slicing and dicing, reserve one cutting board for raw meat and fish only – preferably a plastic one, as it can then be cleaned in the dishwasher. Launder dishcloths and kitchen towels often. And don't forget to wash your can opener every time you use it.

Shopping smart

Some food safety practices should be followed before you even begin cooking. Here are a few tips to keep in mind for your next grocery run:

  • Approach shopping with a strategic plan. With the large size of many supermarkets today, it can often take quite a while to make your way through the aisles. Therefore, select your freezer and refrigerator items last so that they stay as cold (and safe) as possible. Go directly home with your groceries or otherwise use a cooler and ice packs. Once home, remember to put the perishable items away first.
  • When choosing canned goods, avoid cans that are dented or leaking. Check egg cartons to ensure that all the eggs are clean and intact – never buy eggs that are dirty or cracked – and remember to check the "best before" date.
  • In general, when looking at "best before" dates, keep in mind that this is the date until which the manufacturer claims that the unopened goods will keep their quality provided that the food is stored appropriately. If the "best before" date has passed, know that the quality of the food may have decreased and use cautious judgment.  

Expiration dates are not the same as "best before" dates. They're only used for certain types of foods, like meal replacements, and indicate when the nutritional content will start changing. Do not use any products beyond their expiration dates.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2024. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source:

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