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Mastering the Art of Food Safety: How to Avoid Food Poisoning

How to avoid food poisoning

Food poisoning is a serious problem that can ruin your day and leave you feeling sick for days. While there are no foolproof rules that can guarantee you’ll never experience food poisoning, there are precautions you can take to make your meals safer. In this article, we’ll explore some of the hidden dangers in restaurants and home kitchens and provide valuable tips on how to avoid them.

Throw away chipped or cracked dishes (and beware of old ones)

You may have a favorite coffee mug or plate that has been around for years. But it’s important to take extra care of your dishes, because cracks and chips can harbor bacteria. According to Dr. Melvin Pascall of Ohio State University, these imperfections provide a haven for harmful bacteria, posing a risk to your health. It’s best to replace chipped or cracked dishes to ensure food safety.

Ditch the ice in your drinks

While it may seem harmless, getting ice in your drink can have hidden risks. Studies have found traces of bacteria such as E. coli and Enterococcus in ice samples from restaurants and ice machines. Poor hygiene practices and improper hand washing by employees contribute to these contamination problems. In addition, mold can grow and thrive in ice machines, further compromising the safety of the ice. Consider avoiding ice in your beverages to minimize the risk of food poisoning.

Watch out for ice

Ice cream is a popular treat, but it can also be a potential source of food poisoning. Listeria, a bacteria responsible for many cases of food poisoning, can grow in ice cream if it’s not completely frozen. In addition, homemade ice cream recipes that include raw or undercooked eggs can also lead to salmonella contamination. To ensure that your ice cream is safe to eat, opt for pasteurized eggs or egg substitutes in homemade recipes.

Boil your frozen berries

Frozen berries are a convenient option when fresh fruit is out of season. However, they can carry hepatitis A, which may not show symptoms for several weeks after infection. Boiling frozen berries for at least one minute can effectively kill any potential contaminants. This simple step can significantly reduce the risk of hepatitis A and other foodborne illnesses associated with frozen berries.

Play it safe with potatoes

Potatoes are a staple in many diets, but they can pose risks if not handled properly. Green potatoes contain a toxin called solanine, which can cause illness, including coma and seizures. It’s important to avoid eating potatoes that have turned green. In addition, potato salad left at room temperature for long periods can be a source of staph food poisoning. Baked potatoes wrapped in foil and stored in low-oxygen environments can harbor botulism-causing bacteria. Removing the foil and refrigerating baked potatoes promptly can reduce these risks.

Don’t eat bitter squash

Bitter tasting squashes, such as zucchini and cucumbers, may indicate the presence of cucurbitacins, a chemical that causes gastrointestinal illness. Domesticated plants can become bitter due to a number of factors, including high pest infestation. Eating even a few bites of bitter squash can cause serious illness. It’s important to spit out any bitter tasting pumpkins and discard the rest to avoid potential food poisoning.

Be careful with raw sprouts

Sprouts are known for their health benefits, but they can also harbor dangerous bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella. The warm, moist environment in which sprouts are grown encourages bacterial growth. Cooking sprouts thoroughly can eliminate these bacteria and reduce the risk of food poisoning. It’s a good idea to always cook sprouts before eating to ensure their safety.

Watch out for soft cheeses

Soft cheeses, such as feta and string cheese, have been linked to outbreaks of listeriosis, a potentially fatal foodborne illness. Listeria bacteria can survive at low temperatures and can infect animals, resulting in contaminated milk used to make cheese. Choosing soft cheeses made from pasteurized milk can significantly reduce the risk of listeriosis and other related illnesses.

Look out for fairs and festivals

Fairs and festivals are fun, but food safety should not be overlooked. When eating at fair food vendors, it’s important to check for cleanliness, including the display of a license and inspection report. Hand hygiene is critical, as many surfaces and attractions at fairs can harbor harmful bacteria. Washing hands with soap and warm water before eating is highly recommended to prevent self-inflicted food poisoning.

What to look for in a restaurant

When eating out, it’s important to pay attention to the cleanliness and practices of the restaurant kitchen. Dirty utensils, unsanitary condiment bottles, and dirty menus can be red flags for poor food safety practices. Sticky tables and booths can also indicate a lack of proper cleaning. It’s a good idea to choose restaurants with a good reputation for food safety and cleanliness. In addition, observing the general hygiene of the staff, such as their hand washing practices and food handling procedures, can provide insight into the restaurant’s commitment to food safety.

Bottom line

Food poisoning is a serious problem that can have significant health consequences. While it’s impossible to eliminate all risks, being aware of potential hazards and taking preventative measures can greatly reduce the likelihood of foodborne illness. By following these tips, such as replacing chipped utensils, avoiding ice in drinks, boiling frozen berries, and practicing proper food handling and sanitation, you can enjoy your meals with confidence and minimize the risk of food poisoning. Remember, making food safety a priority is essential for your well-being and that of your loved ones.


Can I still use dishes with cracks or chips?

It’s best to avoid using dishes with cracks or chips because they can harbor bacteria and compromise food safety. Replace them to ensure your meals are safe.

Is it safe to consume ice in beverages?

It’s best to skip the ice in your drinks, as studies have found traces of bacteria in ice samples. Poor hygiene practices and mold growth in ice machines can pose a risk of contamination.

Can homemade ice cream cause food poisoning?

Yes, homemade ice cream can be a source of food poisoning if it contains raw or undercooked eggs. To be safe, consider using pasteurized eggs or egg substitutes in your recipes.

Are frozen berries safe to eat?

Frozen berries can carry hepatitis A, so it’s important to boil them for at least one minute before eating to eliminate potential contaminants.

What precautions should I take with potatoes?

Avoid eating green potatoes because they contain a toxin called solanine. Also, refrigerate baked potatoes immediately and avoid leaving potato salad at room temperature for too long to prevent foodborne illness.

Are there any risks associated with soft cheeses?

Soft cheeses, especially those made from unpasteurized milk, can carry Listeria bacteria. Choose soft cheeses made from pasteurized milk to reduce the risk of listeriosis.

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