Ten ways to prevent food poisoning

The UK has more than 850,000 reported cases of people experiencing food poisoning a year, according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

If you've ever had food poisoning, you'll know how unpleasant it can be, even for a fit and healthy person. Sometimes food poisoning can cause serious illness and even death.

Most people assume that food poisoning comes from restaurants, cafes and fast food outlets, but according to the FSA you're just as likely to get ill from food prepared at home.

"People don't like to admit that the germs might have come from their own home," says Dr Andrew Wadge, chief scientist at the FSA. But it's a common myth to think that food poisoning only comes from a dodgy takeaway.

Follow these tips to reduce the risk of food poisoning at home.

Wash your hands

Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water and dry them before handling food, after handling raw foods including meat, fish, eggs and vegetables, as well as after touching the bin, going to the toilet, blowing your nose, or touching animals, including pets.

Wash worktops

Wash worktops before and after preparing food, particularly after they've been touched by raw meat, including poultry, raw eggs, fish and vegetables. You don't need to use antibacterial sprays: hot soapy water is fine.

Wash dishcloths

Wash dishcloths and tea towels regularly and let them dry before you use them again. Dirty, damp cloths are the perfect place for bacteria to breed.

Use separate chopping boards

Use separate chopping boards for raw food and ready-to-eat food. Raw foods can contain harmful bacteria that spreads very easily to anything they touch, including other foods, worktops, chopping boards and knives.

Keep raw meat separate

It's especially important to keep raw meat away from ready-to-eat foods such as salad, fruit and bread. This is because these foods won't be cooked before you eat them, so any bacteria that gets on to the foods won't be killed.

Store meat on the bottom shelf

Always cover raw meat and store it on the bottom shelf of the fridge, where it can't touch other foods or drip onto them.

Cook food thoroughly

Cook food thoroughly and check that it's piping hot all the way through. Make sure poultry, pork, burgers, sausages and kebabs are cooked until steaming hot, with no pink meat inside.

Keep your fridge below 5°C

Keep your fridge temperature below 5°C. By keeping food cold, you stop food poisoning bugs growing.

Cool leftovers quickly

If you have cooked food that you're not going to eat straight away, cool it as quickly as possible (within 90 minutes) and store it in the fridge or freezer. Use any leftovers from the fridge within two days.

Respect 'use-by' dates

Don't eat food that's past its "use-by" date label. These are based on scientific tests that show how quickly harmful bugs can develop in the packaged food.

Find out more on food poisoning in Health A-Z

Page last reviewed: 28/11/2012

Next review due: 28/11/2014

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