Reduce your risk of food poisoning

Anyone who has suffered with a bout of food poisoning will know only too well that it is a miserable experience at best, and downright dangerous at worst.

Avoid food poisoning

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Don't be blase about food hygiene - reduce your risk of falling victim to poisoning with these tips.

Wash well
Hands must be washed thoroughly with hot water, and dried, both before and after handling food. This is particularly important when you've been handling raw food like meat, fish and eggs, touching the bin or cuddling the family pet. Needless to say, if you've been to the toilet or have an attack of the sniffles and are regularly blowing your nose, it's essential to wash your hands.

Worktops should also be washed before and after, but there's no need to use pricey antibacterial products when hot, soapy water does the job just as well. Dishcloths and tea towels must be washed regularly, and allowed to dry before use. Leave damp, dirty towels around and you're creating the perfect conditions for breeding bacteria.

Safe storage
When food is kept cold in the fridge, it helps to prevent those nasty food poisoning bugs growing, but to be really effective, it needs to be below 5 degrees Celsius so do check your thermostat regularly.

Where you store the food in the fridge is also important - raw meat should be kept separate from other foods as it can contain the dreaded bacteria before it is cooked. Keep it covered and store it on the bottom shelf of the fridge so that it won't drip onto other items.

It can also be tempting to be a bit flexible with use-by dates, but they are there for a reason. Even foods that look fine to the naked eye could be hiding a multitude of nasties - so be extra careful with fish, poultry and meat products.

Proper preparation
Just as raw meat should be stored away from other produce, it's just as important to use separate chopping boards for raw and ready-to-eat foods. The harmful bacteria that cause food poisoning can spread easily to whatever they touch - from worktops and chopping boards to knives and other foods - so minimise your risk by having two boards, one for raw and one for ready.

Careful cooking
You might like your steak rare but pink meat inside poultry, pork, burgers, sausages or kebabs are a recipe for trouble. Don't assume that the beautifully browned chicken breast is ready to eat until you have checked that it's piping hot all the way through, and there is no pinky tinge in sight.

Love your leftovers
If you plan on saving your leftovers for tomorrow's lunch or dinner, let it cool quickly. Cooked food should cool within 90 minutes, and once it is completely cool, it should be stored in the fridge or freezer. Fridge-kept leftovers should be eaten or binned within two days.

Good food hygiene might seem like common sense, but according to the Food Standards Agency, many of the 850,000 reported cases in the UK each year come from food prepared at home. Take care in your kitchen and avoid the bugs that could cause serious illness.