We all know that eating food past its use-by date is not a good idea; nor is reheating food more than once or eating prawns that have been sitting at a buffet for several hours. They’re the obvious reasons why you might get a dose of Delhi belly. You might be surprised to learn that some of the foods that are classed as ‘healthy’ can be anything but if food safety practices are not carried out. Here are ten of the foods most likely to give you food poisoning.
Surprisingly, or not, salad greens are one of the most common forms of food poisoning. Pre-packed salad can harbour all manner of microbes, moulds, viruses and do on if they haven’t been processed in a sanitary environment. Continual use of processing water, poor personal hygiene of staff, damaged containers for transportation, not using drinking quality water for final rinsing and many more reasons why bacteria can develop. The golden rule is to always wash vegetables (and fruit) in fresh, clean water before eating.
Few people would relish downing a cupful of raw eggs, but eggs are another food product that naturally carries salmonella. Cooking them properly will kill it off, so check to see that there are no slimy bits in your fried or poached eggs, boil eggs long enough to make sure the white is completely cooked. Alternatively eat them scrambled.
Don’t forget also that raw egg is used as an ingredient in products such as mayonnaise, egg nogs, hollandaise sauce, mousses, homemade ice-cream , raw cake mixture etc. Certain people are more susceptible to salmonella poisoning than others, for example pregnant women, small children, the elderly and those will reduced immune systems.
The worst culprit for food poisoning is minced beef, which is used in dishes such as cottage pie, chilli, lasagne, pies and especially burgers. The reason minced beef (and other minced meats) is the most likely to give you food poisoning is because it has a larger surface area than, say, a steak. If you’re cooking it yourself, make sure it is cooked all the way through.
Watch out in particular for burgers cooked on barbecues. Just because they’re charred on the outside it doesn’t mean that they’re not raw inside. You could cook them under the grill first and then finish them off on the barbecue, or if you’re cooking them from raw, cut into the middle to check they’re brown throughout.
We’ve written quite a bit on the subject of chicken in past blogs. If you read them you’ll remember that most chickens you buy ready-to-cook contain salmonella on the skin. The best way to ensure that it is killed is not to wash it first (as this will just spread the bacteria) but to ensure that it is completely cooked through before eating it. This means that there should be no pink bits.
Oysters and raw shellfish
Oysters are eaten raw and they are fished straight from the water. To test whether an oyster or other shellfish is fresh, give it a sniff. It should smell of the sea. If it doesn’t don’t take any chances, throw it away. Another way of ensuring good quality is to make sure that oysters and other seafood come from a reputable source.
There have been a number of food poisoning reports related to sprouts. I’m not talking about the kind you have with your Christmas dinner, though. I mean things like bean sprouts, pea shoots etc. Why are they likely to cause food poisoning? Well, for starters they tend to grow in wet, warm conditions – which make them the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Add to that the fact that it’s difficult to clean them completely and it’s easy to see why they can cause tummy trouble.
Who would have thought that melon would be featuring on the list? Actually one melon in particular, the cantaloupe, is more likely than the rest to give you gut rot. The problem stems from the fact that we don’t normally bother to wash melon before we eat it because we only eat the inside part. Nevertheless bacteria can still be transmitted to the edible part by the knife as it cuts through the rind. Rind bacteria can also be transferred to the flesh via our hands if we’ve eating a wedge of melon. The solution? Give the melon a good scrub in clean water before you cut into it.
Some people still prefer to drink milk as nature intended directly from the cow. You won’t find unpasteurised milk in the supermarket, but you can still buy it from some farm shops. By drinking raw milk you are running a risk of getting Salmonella, Listeria or E-Coli food poisoning. A problem which can be practically eradicated by drinking pasteurised milk, which is heated to a temperature of 72°C and then quickly cooled to 3°C to kill pathogens and prolong shelf life.
All fish needs to be kept very cold but tuna in particular is especially susceptible to scrombotoxin. Warmer temperatures allow bacteria to multiply and produce the chemical histamine. This can cause serious cramps and headaches, low blood pressure, skin rash, vomiting and diarrhoea. Cooking won’t kill the bacteria, so it’s therefore essential that tuna and fish from the same family such as herring and mackerel are kept chilled before use.
Many berries as superfoods are classed as ‘superfoods’, especially blueberries, blackberries and blackcurrants. However you won’t be feeling so super if you contract food poisoning from eating them! It’s extremely important if you pick berries yourself, or even buy them fresh or frozen from a shop, that you wash them thoroughly. Frozen berries were linked to cases of Hepatitis A earlier this year.
For more information about food safety, take a look here.