Food poisoning can get really bad. Not only will it spoil your evening, but you can end up in hospital. But it’s not always that easy to spot the dangers. Often times, food that is contaminated with illness-causing bacteria don’t always look or smell bad. So, you won’t expect to become ill. Luckily, we’ve got you covered with a few tips.
Beware of the cracks
Whether it’s on a plate, a glass, or a chopping board, cracks are never a good thing. Cracked glass and porcelain are of course dangerous because of the risk of consuming splinters, but there are also other risks. Cracks are ideal places for bacteria to accumulate and grow, as it’s difficult to clean hard to reach places. Rather toss it and get new ones.
Avoid ice cubes
You might not think about it, but ice is a huge risk for food poisoning. How so? Well, often times when people make ice, they don’t give a second thought for the water used. The water can be contaminated with bacteria. That’s not all. Ice buckets and ice machines are quite dirty, and can be contaminated with E.coli…which means people are not washing their hands when handling it.
Watch out for the ice cream
Ice cream might look all cool and innocent…but it hides a dangerous secret. It can be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes! If you don’t believe us, then just check out recent outbreaks on the CDC’s website. In 2015, a listeria outbreak was linked to Blue Bell ice cream! The problem is, homemade ice cream is not necessarily safer. Because raw eggs are often used in preparing ice cream, there’s also a risk of Salmonella.
Be careful with raw sprouts
Sprouts are jam packed with nutrients, so they are a great addition to your diet. However, bacteria grow happily on the seeds as they sprout, and this unfortunately makes sprouts potentially dangerous. This is especially true if E. coli and Salmonella bacteria grow on the sprouts. Also, since these bacteria grow and multiply very easily even in hygienic conditions, where you buy sprout doesn’t really matter. However, bacteria are completely destroyed during the cooking process, so just be sure you cook your sprouts properly and you are good to go!
Be vigilant at events
Events are a great way to wind down and enjoy good music, good company, and good food. However, events also pose some health risks. This is because not all vendors are as strict with their food prep and storage conditions as they should be. Luckily, vendors usually display a license and inspection report, which can help you decide whether they are legit or not. Also, since your own hands easily get dirty, for example at a fair, be sure to wash your hands with soap and water before you handle food to reduce your chances of picking up some nasty bugs.
Watch that buffet!
A buffet is a great way to entertain guests and allow them to chat and move around. But it’s also a risk for food poisoning. Because the food is often left at room temperatures for extended periods of time, there is enough time (and temperature) for illness-causing bacteria to grow. If you think the food will be out for more than two hours, rather use smaller containers and top it up as you go.
What to do at the sit-down
We all need a break from cooking from time to time, and a night out at a nice restaurant is just the way to do it. But, since you usually cannot see their kitchen, you don’t really know whether they properly follow recommended health and safety guidelines. Luckily, there are some red flags to help you decide whether or not you should stay. Dirty utensils and condiment bottles are an obviously clue that all is not well. Dirty menus and sticky tables are another one. Clean bathrooms show staff are serious about hygiene. Are there any sick employees? How are tables cleaned? Keep all of this in mind to help you decide.
Watch those taters
While potatoes are loved by nearly everyone, being hailed as an ultimate comfort food, they have a sinister side. Ever heard of deadly nightshade? Well, nightshades and potatoes are cousins, being in the same plant family, and incidentally they share a dangerous toxin called solanine. Luckily, in potatoes this toxin only develops when they turn green. Thus, avoid green potatoes like the plague, otherwise you could find yourself having seizures, fever, hallucinations, or even circulatory and nervous system collapse!
Avoid squash when it is bitter
Sometimes bitterness is a good thing, like sugarless coffee, but other times it is a sign that all’s not well. This is the case with squash that tastes bitter. The chemicals responsible for the foul taste are called cucurbitacins, and they cause a gastrointestinal illness called toxic squash syndrome. This is not limited to squash alone, but can also result from eating a bitter zucchini, melon, gourd, cucumber, or pumpkin. Also, cooking squash doesn’t remove the toxins. So, if they taste bitter, throw them away.
Have a hard look on soft cheese
With the nearly endless variety of cheeses, there is pretty much one to suite any taste. Unfortunately, not all cheeses are created equal, and some can pose a bigger health risk than others. This is especially true of soft cheese, like feta and string cheese. And the culprit? Listeriosis. This is a potentially fatal type of food poisoning caused by the food pathogen Listeria. Soft cheese can contain Listeria bacteria since unpasteurized milk is often used in their production. Thus, the bacteria can survive due to the lack of pasteurization. So, make sure your soft cheese of choice has been made with pasteurized milk.