Canada Day is nearly here, and you know what that means! Backyard BBQs and gatherings filled with food, drinks and fun. However, what isn’t fun and also tends to accompany holiday eating is food poisoning.
According to Health Canada, about 4 million Canadians ( ~10% of the population) suffer from food poisoning on a yearly basis. Food poisoning may not be overly severe for a healthy adult, but could be particularly dangerous for children under five, pregnant women or the elderly. At the least, one should expect to deal with days of diarrhea, nausea, fever and vomiting when consuming contaminated food.
How does food poisoning occur?
Food poisoning occurs generally when we eat food that is contaminated with unsafe levels of bacteria or viruses. Contamination can occur at any time during the handling, storing or cooking process if we are not diligent about food safety.
Here are five of the most common kitchen mistakes people make that put them at an increased risk of food contamination and food poisoning.
- Thawing/defrosting meat at room temperature: Thaw your meat products either in the refrigerator, microwave or in cold water. When you leave meat ( including fish/poultry) at room temperature for an extended period of time it greatly increases the probability that bacteria will reproduce and contaminate the food.
- Leaving food out from dinner or gatherings too long: If you are planning to save food from dinner or dinner events for leftovers, you should refrigerate that food within two hours of when you have finished cooking it. Food left out for longer than two hours is much more likely to become a food safety risk and should not be consumed or stored after this time.
- Leaving uncooked meat in the refrigerator for too long: You should always aim to cook meat that you purchase from the grocery store in under 48 hours from the time of purchase. If you do not plan to prepare it within 48 hours, freeze it. Use a similar rule for opened deli meats; consume them within 48-72 hours to minimize your risk.
- Leaving leftovers in the refrigerator for too long: If you frequently save your leftovers or prepare large quantities of food in advance, it is highly advisable you consume this food within five days of preparation. Cooked food that has been in the fridge longer than five days should be discarded.
- Using the same cutting board for meat and vegetables: You should always be using separate cutting boards for meat and vegetables at the time of food preparation because there is a very high risk of cross contamination from meat to produce.
These are five relatively simple but extremely important kitchen safety tips that all Canadians should be following, but especially those who are living with pregnant women, children under the age of 5 and the elderly. Although there is more to food safety than these five points, avoiding these common mistakes will go a long way to minimizing you and your family’s risk of ever suffering from food poisoning.