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The Importance of Food Safety: 5 Easy Tips to Follow

Food safety is the practice of properly handling, preparing, and storing food to prevent food-borne illness, also known as “food poisoning”. Each year, about 1 in 8 Canadians – or four million people – are affected by food-borne illnesses. Some common food-borne illnesses include:

  • Norovirus, a virus that causes gastrointestinal illnesses such as diarrhea and/or vomiting.
  • Salmonella, a bacterial disease that affects the intestinal tract.
  • Listeria infection, a bacterial illness that can be very serious for pregnant women and individuals with weaker immune systems.

woman holder her upset stomach

In a country where food safety policies are rigid, why are so many Canadians getting sick? The problem is that Canadians have become less aware of food safety rules and best practices. In fact, seniors and pregnant women don’t often feel like they’re at a greater risk of food poisoning despite their impaired immune system. But, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Following food safety best practices doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are 5 simple tips for keeping your food safe to help prevent getting a food-borne illness.

5 Easy Tips for Proper Food Safety

1. Always Wash Your Hands Before Preparing Food.

Follow the steps below to wash your hands the right way.

  • Wet your hands with clean running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together. Make sure to get between your fingers and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • Rinse your hands under clear, running water.
  • Dry your hands with a clean towel or air dry.

Not only is this step important before you prep your meals, but it’s highly recommended that you wash your hands throughout the entire day. Frequent hand washing can:

  • Reduce gastrointestinal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58%.
  • Reduce the number of people who get sick with gastrointestinal diseases by 31%.
  • Reduce respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 16-21%.

washing hands with soap and water

2. Wash Your Hands After Handling Raw Meat, Poultry, Fish, or Egg Products

Raw chicken is often contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria, and sometimes with Salmonella or Clostridium perfringens bacteria that can lead to food poisoning. So, before you touch anything else in your kitchen – including food, knives, cooking utensils, and handles – always remember to wash your hands.

cutting chicken on cutting board

3. Use Separate Cutting Boards

To avoid contaminating your vegetables with the bacteria found in raw meat and chicken, use two cutting boards – one for your raw meat, and one for your vegetables.

4. Sanitize Your Kitchen and Wash Your Reusable Grocery Bags

Before and after you prepare your food, sanitize your countertops, cutting boards, and utensils by wiping them with a kitchen sanitizer or a bleach solution. Make sure to rinse all items with water.

Bacteria can also grow in your reusable grocery bags. If you’re able, throw them in the washing machine or hand-wash them frequently.

washing cutting board in the sink

5. Wash Your Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Before Cooking/Consuming

Bacteria can also be found in the soil that fresh produce is grown, and will attach itself to the produce. Therefore, it’s always advisable to wash all fruit and vegetables before you eat them. Do not use soap to wash your produce; instead, just run them under running water or use a natural fruit and vegetable wash.

Follow these five simple tips and you’ll help reduce your risk of getting food poisoning. If you require additional help or want to learn more, you can contact a dietitian. Dietitians can help make sure that you’re not only eating right, but preparing your food in a safe way.

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