By Emily Joshu, health reporter for Dailymail.Com
12:24 November 12, 2023, updated 12:29 November 12, 2023
- Avoiding pre-made salads and banning dogs from the kitchen are just two examples
- Two food safety experts tell DailyMail.com what to do to avoid getting sick
- READ MORE: Doctors Reveal the 12 Daily Habits They Avoid
Paying attention to expiration dates and keeping raw meat away from other foods are well-known golden rules for safe cooking.
But speaking to DailyMail.com, food safety experts warned that there are many other vital habits we should practice in the kitchen – but few Americans do.
Even seemingly harmless cooking habits, like ordering from a grocery delivery service like Instacart, are, according to a former FDA hygiene adviser, a recipe for an upset stomach.
Approximately 48 million Americans suffer from foodborne illnesses each year. Some 128,000 people end up in hospital, while 3,000 people die from it, according to the CDC.
Examples of bacterial, parasitic and viral infections caused by food include salmonella, toxoplasma, listeria and norovirus, as well as E.coli.
The most common is norovirus, which affects one in 15 people each year, although all infections can lead to serious illness or death.
Fortunately, two leading specialists have offered you their essential advice to save you from going to the hospital.
DO NOT LEAVE FOOD FOR TWO HOURS OR MORE
Leaving food out of the refrigerator for more than two hours can lead to a risky drop in temperature, Dr. Darin Detwiler, a food safety expert at Northeastern University in Boston and a former food safety adviser to the FDA and from the USDA.
If the temperature of the food drops below 140 degrees Fahrenheit – and is not refrigerated to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it risks harboring insects like salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus.
These infections can lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and low blood pressure.
Dr. Detwiler suggests thawing foods in the refrigerator, rather than on the counter, to reduce this risk.
SAY GOODBYE TO INSTACART
Grocery delivery services like Instacart, Shipt, and Amazon Fresh are convenient ways to shop if you don’t have time to go to the grocery store.
However, Dr. Detwiler believes that this shortcut carries risks.
If you’re not at the grocery store yourself, it’s harder to spot the telltale signs of a poor diet.
For example, if a bag of spinach is swollen with air, it means the food is spoiled and bacteria is causing gas to form.
Dr. Detwiler says people don’t tend to check out food from a delivery the way they do in-store.
“It can be convenient, but think about it, you’re essentially giving them all the responsibilities and decision-making at the grocery store,” Dr. Detwiler said.
“There are a lot of things we need to ask ourselves when we’re looking for indicators at the grocery store, and you can’t necessarily trust a stranger to do it for you.”
WEIGH FOOD BEFORE COOKING IT
Dr. Detwiler never cooks food without knowing its weight.
This is because the time needed to reach a safe temperature depends on the weight of the food, particularly meat.
For example, if you cook two different sized pieces of chicken for the same amount of time, the larger one may be undercooked.
Toby Amidor, a registered dietitian and food safety expert in New York City, recommends using a meat thermometer to tell if foods are properly cooked, especially large cuts of meat.
“Visual cues are not enough to know if your meat, poultry and fish are cooked properly – that’s why I always use a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the food to tell if the food is done ” she told the DailyMail. com.
AVOID PREPARED SALAD BAGS
“I will never eat one of those salads made at the grocery store,” Dr. Detwiler said. “It’s just too risky.”
He explained that this is because bagged salads have been subject to countless recalls in recent years, including dozens that were recalled earlier this year due to possible listeria contamination. .
Salads are prepared in processing plants, with large staff which creates risks of contamination.
Pathogens are known to thrive in such environments, whereas lettuce does not carry this risk.
Symptoms of Listeria infection usually include those that resemble those of the flu: chills, fever, body aches, nausea and vomiting. In high-risk populations such as pregnant women, it can lead to miscarriages, stillbirths, premature births and newborn death.
Stick to Small Containers
Storing food in large pots or trays could make it vulnerable to germs, Dr. Detwiler said.
He gives the example of storing foods like mashed potatoes and pasta, which are often put in the refrigerator in the dish they are prepared in, covered with foil.
But this can affect the temperature of foods because they cool at different rates, leaving the inner layers vulnerable to bacterial growth.
“Whether it’s a large piece of ham, a large roast or a large turkey, cut it into small portions and put those small portions in the refrigerator or freezer,” Dr. Detwiler explained. .
Dr. Detwiler suggests placing foods like chili, soup, and sauces in shallow dishes like lasagna dishes or pie pans so they can cool evenly.
CHANGE OF CUTTING BOARDS – AND UTENSILS
Using the same knife and cutting board for different foods can be a recipe for cross-contamination.
For example, cutting vegetables with the same knife you used for chicken could spread bacteria like salmonella, which is most often hidden in animal products.
Dr. Detwiler recommends getting a new cutting board and utensils when you need to start preparing a different type of food rather than rinsing them, as traces of bacteria may linger.
Washing utensils, dishes and prep tools in the dishwasher is also a good idea to kill pathogens, he said, due to the high temperatures.
LEFT CHUCK AFTER FOUR DAYS
Many American workers prepare their meals at the beginning of the week, to save themselves hassle after a busy day.
But experts say you should never prepare food a week in advance.
“Only store leftovers in the refrigerator for three to four days,” says Dr. Detwiler.
“I hate the idea of someone cooking all their meals on Sunday until Friday or Saturday.” It is too long.’
After four days, bacteria can start to grow, even if food is kept cold and safe in insulated containers.
Another option, Dr. Detwiler suggests, is to freeze food at the beginning of the week, which will keep it safe longer.
BAN YOUR DOG FROM THE KITCHEN
Dr. Detwiler recommends keeping man’s best friend out of the kitchen while you cook.
If you are handling food and let your dog lick your hand, for example, you could contaminate the food with pathogens carried by pets.
One of the most common germs is Capnocytophaga, which does not make dogs or cats sick but can cause blisters, fever, vomiting and diarrhea in humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention diseases (CDC).
If your pet comes into the kitchen, avoid petting it until you have finished eating and washed your hands.
NEVER RINSE MEAT BEFORE COOKING
READ MORE: The four surprising foods you should NEVER reheat the next day – and the four that are OK
It’s a dilemma most people have encountered, but they never seem to get a clear answer online: What leftovers can and cannot be reheated safely?
Never rinse your meat, warns Ms. Amidor.
“Although people think that rinsing meat can help remove some bacteria on the meat, it actually increases the risk of contaminating your sink and countertop because everything splatters,” she said.
USDA research found that a quarter of participants who washed raw poultry transferred this bacteria to lettuce.
Soaking meat in salt water, also known as brining, adds flavor, but the USDA states that it “serves no benefit in food safety.”
MAKE SURE DAIRY PRODUCTS ARE PASTEURIZED
Dr. Detwiler urges caution regarding foods that have not been pasteurized.
Although most produce you find in a grocery store is pasteurized, produce from farms and small markets may not be pasteurized and harbors harmful pathogens.
Pasteurization involves sterilizing foods like milk and eggs using heat, protecting them from germs and extending their shelf life.
Dairy products that have not undergone this process can lead to illnesses like E. coli and salmonella, which can be deadly for vulnerable populations like pregnant people and the elderly.
“There are outbreaks and recalls left and right involving unpasteurized milk,” Dr. Detwiler said.
“The most vulnerable populations – the very young, the elderly, pregnant women or those with compromised immune systems – are those who are at risk of ending up in hospital or dying.”