Every year in Québec, thousands of people are victims of food poisoning. According to data from Québec’s ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPAQ), nearly 40% of these events occur at home and yes, your sushi or favourite salmon tartare recipe are no strangers to this!
The main symptoms of foodborne illness are abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and fever. Symptoms may appear only a few minutes after ingesting the food, or even several hours or even days later. On the other hand, several preventive measures can avert food poisoning.
Here are 5 fairly simple tips that you can put into practice today to prevent poisoning and all that comes with it!
1- Maintain a spotless kitchen
The kitchen is one of the rooms in your house that is most susceptible to germs (your refrigerator is particularly at risk!). Here are the hygiene rules to follow:
- Wash your hands before cooking AND before eating.
- Keep your work surfaces clean at all times and disinfect them.
- Wash your tea towels and dish towels frequently.
- Only store food products in the refrigerator and clean it as often as possible.
2- Respect the cold chain
For food to remain fit for consumption, it must be kept at a constant temperature below 4°C. When carrying fresh or frozen produce on a hot summer day, use a cooler or cooler bag (often sold in grocery stores). When you get home, put away the frozen food and fresh food in that order, and finish with the fruit and vegetables and non-perishable items. Also, remember to avoid thawing a product on the kitchen counter at room temperature. Defrosting should be done in the refrigerator or by cooking only.
3- Cook things well or use extreme caution
Raw foods are the ones that transmit the most bacteria. A well-cooked meat will therefore confer a lower risk of poisoning than a piece served blue or rare. Make sure the food is cooked at 65°C for at least three minutes, and be careful when cooking foods like ground beef, sausages and poultry, which need to be well-done. Plus, don't leave anything on your counter to cool it down! It must be stored quickly (in less than 2 hours) in your refrigerator to avoid the proliferation of bacteria.
When it comes to fish, which you use to make sushi or tartare at home, don't skimp on quality and freshness. Go to the fish market or look for "tartare quality" label at the grocery store. Don’t forget point #2: respect the cold chain! So place your bowl of tartare in a bain-marie of ice. This way, your meat will stay cold while you cut it (and we know it takes a long time to cut tartare small cubes!).
4- Beware of risky foods!
In short, foods high in protein or high in water are most at risk. Why? Simply, because bacteria need water and nitrogen (contained in proteins) for optimal growth. Eggs, dairy products, meat and fish must therefore be given special attention. Even though fruits and vegetables are less risky, it’s nevertheless important to wash them well before consuming them in order to dislodge any microorganisms that may exist. Also examine the condition of your preserves, they should not bulge or be pierced.
5- Trust the expiration date
When shopping for groceries or before cooking your meals, be sure to check the product’s expiration date before consuming it. Note, however, that as a precautionary measure, sometimes manufacturers display very early expiration dates to prevent any possible danger and to protect themselves.
Food expiration dates come in two forms:
- To be consumed before: this must be strictly observed.
- Best before: which suggest that the taste and nutritional qualities are ideal before the date indicated. The products can still remain harmless or deteriorate for a few days after this date.
You’re now a food safety expert! You have all the information you need to avoid food poisoning. Don't hesitate to print this article to keep these few rules handy!
Familiprix in collaboration with Hubert Cormier