Food poisoning is a major problem—frequently caused by carelessness and bad habits in the kitchen. Do this quiz to find out how much you know about preparing food the healthy way.
Which of these foods is safest to eat in the street?
You have got raw meat defrosting in the fridge. Where should you store it?
On the top shelf
It doesn’t matter
On the bottom shelf
Which of these is true?
You should store cooked food away from uncooked food
You should always cover up food that has been prepared
Raw meat is safer to eat than cooked meat
Which of these infections is most dangerous?
Is it safe to cook meat taken straight out of the freezer?
Which of these creatures can carry infections?
After preparing an uncooked chicken you should always:
Wash the knife and cutting board thoroughly
Wash your hands well
Dispose of the waste carefully and quickly
Why shouldn’t you put hot food into the fridge?
Because it will develop salmonella
Because it will heat up other food stored in the fridge and increase the chance of that food developing an infection
Because it will go bad more rapidly
The symptoms of food poisoning can occur up to how long after eating infected food? 4 hours 24 hours 5 days
Which type of food should be avoided by pregnant women?
How cold should your fridge be?
Between 3 degrees Centigrade and freezing 32 degrees Centigrade below zero 12 degrees Centigrade or below
Which of these symptoms can suggest food poisoning?
Why is listeria dangerous to pregnant women?
It can cause a miscarriage
It may affect the unborn baby
It can affect the production of breast milk
Which of these is a common cause of salmonella poisoning?
How hot should food get to make sure that it is cooked properly? 70 degrees Centigrade 50 degrees Centigrade 30 degrees Centigrade
NOW CHECK YOUR SCORE!
A) 2 points b) 2 points c) 0 points d) 0 points
Bananas and oranges—which come wrapped in their own disposable wrapping—are the safest ‘street’ foods you can buy.
A) 0 points b) 0 points c) 2 points
You should store meat on the bottom shelf so that any blood dripping from it doesn’t contaminate other food.
A) 2 points b) 2 points c) 0 points
Raw meat is one of the most dangerous types of food you can eat!
A) 2 points b) 0 points c) 0 points
Botulism is by far the most dangerous bug you are likely to come in contact with through eating food!
A) 0 points b) 2 points
Meat needs to be thawed properly before being cooked,
Otherwise there is a risk that the meat in the centre will not be cooked properly when you eat it.
A) 1 point b) 1 point c) 1 point
All these creatures can, of course, carry infection.
A) 1 point b) 1 point c) 1 point You should do all these things!
A) 0 points b) 2 points c) 0 points
If you put hot food into the fridge it will increase the temperature inside the fridge and other food stored there may rise in temperature to a dangerous level. 9. A) 0 points b) 0 points c) 2 points
Food poisoning can occur up to 5 days after eating infected food. 10. A) 0 points b) 2 points c) 0 points
Pregnant women should avoid soft cheeses—and other foods made with unpasteurised milk. These are likely to contain listeria. 11. A) 2 points b) 0 points c) 0 points
You should keep your refrigerator between freezing and 3 degrees Centigrade in order to keep bugs at bay. 12. A) 2 points b) 2 points c) 2 points
Each of these symptoms can be produced by food poisoning. 13. A) 1 point b) 1 point c) 0 points
Listeria can cause miscarriages and can affect an unborn baby. 14. A) 2 points b) 0 points c) 0 points
Poultry is a common cause of salmonella poisoning.
A) 2 points b) 0 points c) 0 points
Food should be cooked at 70 degrees Centigrade or above to make sure that bugs are destroyed.
Stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhoea are the classic symptoms of food poisoning—a syndrome caused by eating contaminated
Food. If several members of the same family all develop these symptoms after eating the same meal then food poisoning has to be suspected. Some types of food poisoning begin within hours—even minutes—while others may take days to develop. If you think you might have contracted food poisoning: rest, avoid solids, drink plenty of fluids and contact your doctor for advice.
Botulism is one of the most deadly and horrifying diseases known. The toxin produced by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria—probably the most poisonous substance in the world—is so deadly that one small drop can kill 50,000 people.
Unlike most types of food poisoning botulism affects the nervous system rather than the stomach. There may be some nausea and vomiting a few hours after eating contaminated food but the first real symptoms usually start fairly suddenly 18 to 36 hours after the food was eaten.
The faster symptoms start the more serious the disease is likely to be.
The symptoms to watch out for are (in the order in which they appear):
Blurred or double vision
Difficulty in swallowing
General weakness of arms and legs.
As the disease spreads through the body so the paralysis spreads and becomes gradually more and more severe. One of the most terrifying aspects of the disease is that patients remain fully alert as the paralysis spreads. Because there is no effect on mental skills patients remain fully aware of what is happening to them. Doctors usually have to inject calming drugs in order to
Help prevent understandable panic.
Botulism is so deadly that it kills up to 70% of the patients who get it if they are not treated quickly and properly.
Since the chest muscles which control breathing are often affected, patients will frequently need to be put onto a respirator and looked after in an intensive care unit.
A tracheotomy—in which a life saving tube is inserted into the patient’s windpipe—is often essential as the poison spreads.
Anti toxins—to combat the poison—are usually given not only to people who have the disease but also to those who have eaten the poisonous food but have not yet shown signs of the disease—though this must be done within hours.
The bacteria which cause botulism cannot survive in the presence of oxygen and normally live buried in the soil—which is how they get into food. Heat and sterilisation techniques usually prevent botulism. It is usually home preserved foods that are the cause of the disease—vegetables, fruits and meats can all cause it.
Here are three additional reasons why botulism needs to be taken seriously:
The poison produced by the botulism organism is probably the most deadly substance in the world. No one is immune. One yoghurt carton full of botulism poison could wipe out an entire nation.
Botulism is so rare that relatively little of the potentially life saving botulism anti-toxin is kept in stock.
Victims of botulism poisoning usually need to be treated in special intensive care units—and many need to be kept alive on life support machines and ventilators until the paralysis produced by the poison wears off. But there are never many spare intensive care unit beds available.
Salmonella infections are responsible for many types of food
Poisoning and for the disease ‘typhoid fever’. Infection of hen’s eggs with salmonella is believed to be widespread.
The symptoms of salmonella food poisoning usually include headache, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and a feeling of weakness. Symptoms generally last only for a few days. Patients are usually advised to avoid solid food for the first twenty four hours of their illness but to drink plenty of fluids.
Salmonella organisms are particularly likely to be present in raw or lightly cooked foods.
Twenty point plan for reducing your chances of developing food poisoning
The widespread use of preservatives to keep food in good condition has not stopped the incidence of food poisoning. The majority of food borne infections are transmitted via meat and meat products. Here are twenty rips to help you reduce your chances of acquiring a food transmitted infection.
Make sure that you always check the sell by date on any packaged food you buy. Sell by dates are important—and they are there for a reason! If you buy food that has gone past its sell by date you may save money but you could be putting yourself at risk.
Don’t ever buy tins which are rusty or bulging or badly damaged (the food inside might be contaminated) and do not buy packets of food if the packet is damaged or torn.
When choosing food from a freezer in a store make sure that the freezer is working (I.e. Is cold) and that the food is cold when you take it out. Make sure that you put the food into your freezer as soon as possible and if possible transport it home in a ‘cool bag’. If you drive around with cold food in your car and it defrosts then the growth of bacteria will be encouraged.
Don’t ever buy anything from a food shop which looks dirty. And don’t buy anything from a food shop assistant
Who has dirty hands. The reason for this is simple: if the manager of the shop can’t be bothered to ensure that the shop and his staff are clean then the chances are that he is not too fussy about food hygiene either.
When you are buying eggs don’t buy eggs which are cracked (it is obviously easier for the egg inside to become infected if the shell is cracked). And try to buy eggs which have been laid by free range chickens rather than chickens kept in tiny cages. (Apart from the moral reasons, chickens which are allowed to roam around are likely to be healthier than chickens kept in cages).
When you store food in the fridge try to keep different types of food apart from one another in order to reduce the risk of cross contamination. Make sure that you put meat— and any other foods which are defrosting—on a plate at the bottom of the fridge so that drips won’t fall onto other foods. Always keep meat (a high risk source of infection) well away from other foods.
Do make sure that your fridge is kept cold enough. The temperature inside your fridge should be below 3 degrees Centigrade. If your fridge is too warm then the food in it will spoil so make sure that you check the thermostat if necessary. Your fridge will work more efficiently if you defrost it regularly.
Never ever refreeze food which has been frozen and already thawed. Thawing increases the number of bacteria and refreezing food increases your chances of being infected.
If you eat meat it is vitally important that you make sure that it is completely thawed before you start to cook it. If you don’t do this then there is a risk that the middle of the meat will still be frozen when you start to cook it. If this happens, when you think all the meat is cooked the centre will still be uncooked— and probably full of bugs. It is particularly important that poultry is properly thawed before being cooked.
Once an item of food has been thawed make sure that you use it quickly. Do not leave it sitting around in the kitchen—if you do then micro organisms will be given a chance to multiply.
Always wash vegetables and fruit thoroughly in running water before using them. You should, of course, even wash food which you have grown yourself since some bugs can be carried in the soil.
Take care to ensure that all the worktops and equipment in your kitchen are kept scrupulously clean. Wash with soapy water: rinse afterwards in clean water, and dry surfaces and utensils carefully with a clean cloth. Dirty cloths are one of the commonest causes of infection in the kitchen: it is better to let dishes and utensils drip and drain if possible. Do not use old or dirty dish cloths and change towels regularly (disposable paper towels are best because they keep the risk of cross infection to an absolute minimum).
Make sure that you wash your hands thoroughly before you start preparing any food—and after any interruption. If you have any infected or open wound make sure that you always wear a proper bandage (both to protect the food you are handling and yourself). Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling meat of any kind.
When food has been cooked you should, if possible, eat it quickly. If food which has been cooked is allowed to cool then any bugs in it will multiply. The risk increases with the length of time that cooked food is left. Cooked food which is stored should be kept cold in the fridge or hot in the oven. If you intend to eat foods which have been previously cooked make sure that you thoroughly reheat them. When reheating food it is essential that all parts of the food reach a temperature of at least 70 degrees Centigrade.
The best way to kill the bugs in meat, poultry or fish is to ensure that you cook the food properly. Avoid dishes which
Include raw meat, raw poultry or raw fish.
Anyone pregnant, elderly or frail should avoid soft cheeses (such as Brie and Camembert) and blue veined cheeses since these can be contaminated with listeria bacteria.
Don’t eat raw eggs or dishes prepared with raw eggs (if you do the risk of salmonella poisoning will increase).
Cats, dogs and even birds can all carry infections which may be dangerous to you so don’t let them clamber over surfaces where you prepare or serve food. And if you handle an animal make sure that you wash your hands thoroughly before preparing or eating food. Make sure that you keep feeding dishes and serving utensils intended for animals well away from those which you use. Wash up dishes used by animals in different water.
Don’t put warm food into the refrigerator—if you do then the temperature inside the fridge may rise to an unsafe level and other food stored there may be spoilt.
Make sure that you know how to use all the equipment in your kitchen, and check that your oven, fridge and microwave (if you use one) are all working properly. Be careful to make sure that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.