(NC) If you’ve ever had a rough night after an all-you-can-eat buffet, then you know better than most the importance of food safety. But foodborne illnesses can do more than cause discomfort. There are approximately four million cases of food poisoning in Canada each year— that’s about one in eight people. Protecting yourself and your family begins by following the four rules of food safety — clean, separate, cook and chill. That’s how you’ll avoid the most common sources of food poisoning:
- E. coli. Most commonly found in raw or undercooked meats and raw vegetables and fruit. E. coli bacteria can also be present in untreated water and unpasteurized milk, apple juice or cider.
Campylobacter. Most commonly found in raw poultry, unpasteurized (raw) milk and untreated water. Dogs, cats and farm animals can also carry these bacteria.
Listeria. Most commonly found in processed meats, like hot dogs and deli meats; unpasteurized milk and milk products; raw vegetables; and raw or undercooked meat, poultry or fish.
Salmonella. Most commonly found in raw or undercooked poultry, meat, fish and eggs; raw vegetables and fruit; unpasteurized milk and milk products; sauces; salad dressings; peanut butter; cocoa; and chocolate.
Clostridium botulinum (botulism). Most commonly found in improperly prepared home-canned, low-acid foods like corn, mushrooms, spaghetti sauce, salmon, and garlic in oil. Honey may also be contaminated.
Bacteria form the biggest group of food contaminants, but viruses, parasites, mould and toxins can also seriously harm anyone who eats contaminated food.
Food can become contaminated when not handled or cooked properly. Food poisoning can be caused by not chilling or cooking foods properly; by cross-contaminating cooked foods with raw foods; and by not properly cleaning cooking surfaces, utensils, dishes or hands.
One of the most common mistakes is leaving foods in the “danger zone” where bacteria grow quickly—between 4°C (40°F) and 60°C (140°F). This is why properly chilling and cooking food is essential to food safety.
Harmful bacteria can infect food at any point from farm to table. Fortunately, you can prevent most cases by following safe food handling practices. You can do something as simple as using a food thermometer to check that your food is cooked properly. Always follow the four rules of food safety: clean, separate, cook and chill.
If you think you have a foodborne illness, report it to your doctor or health department.
Find more information online at Canada.ca/FoodSafety to avoid food poisoning.