Food poisoning can ruin your summer celebrations. It occurs most often when you eat food served at gatherings such as picnics or BBQs. In such occasions, food and beverages are often prepared in advance and left at room temperature for prolonged periods, allowing bacteria to multiply and produce toxins. Meat, dairy products and mayo-based foods are most often the source of food poisoning.
Food poisoning symptoms typically appear two to six hours after eating contaminated food and usually last 12 to 48 hours. They included vomiting, fever, shivering, headaches, bloody diarrhea, weakness and severe abdominal cramps. A few simple measures can help reduce the risk of involuntary food poisoning. Always wash your hands before a meal, after going to the washroom and petting an animal. Make sure all kitchen surfaces are spotless and keep pets away from food. Always keep meat and fish in the coldest part of your refrigerator (usually the bottom shelf) and eat them within one or two days (or freeze them for later use). Cook defrosted food quickly and thoroughly. Never put cooked meat or fish in the plate used before cooking, unless it was thoroughly washed. Always wash fruits and vegetables before eating them. Finally, discard any food that’s past its expiry date or which has mold. During the festivities, make sure cooked foods are served piping hot. If you offer food buffet-style, cover each plate and keep them in the fridge until the last minute. If your guests do not eat all the food, quickly place any leftovers back in the refrigerator. If you think food from a restaurant or a shop is the source of food poisoning, call the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (1-800-442-2342); they will look into the matter. If you take medications on a regular basis, you should call your pharmacist or physician if you suffer from severe vomiting or diarrhea; they will tell you what to do.