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Posts Tagged ‘Foodborne illness’

Holiday Cooking Safety Tips

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

Woman preparing for Christmas dinnerCooking a big meal for the holidays is a joyous event, as you can pour your love and expertise into every bite. But to keep loved ones safe, make sure you are careful in the kitchen. Our first tip? Slow down. Despite the frenetic pace modeled on cooking competition shows, it’s always best to pace yourself while cooking. Professional chefs work quickly, but they also watch out for one another and take steps to follow basic safety protocols.

Avoid Food-Borne Illnesses

As disheartening as it is, in terms of bacteria, home kitchens are typically more bacteria-ridden than public restrooms.  But the good news is that if steps are taken to follow sanitary practices, you can guard against hosting a house full of sick holiday guests.Dirty utensil on the kitchen

  • Wash utensils thoroughly. The dishwasher is the best method for washing, as it utilizes too-hot-to-handle water and vigorous rinsing. If you must hand wash items that have come into contact with raw meat or eggs, use gloves, so you can handle hot water without burning yourself. Apply lots of soap and thoroughly wash everything to dispense with soap residue.
  • Prevent cross contamination by using separate cutting boards for meat, veggies and fruit. Several manufacturers offer color-coded cutting boards for just this reason.
  • User paper towels to remove juice from meat and raw eggs. Avoid using cloth towels, which can harbor bacteria.
  • Defrost and marinate foods in the refrigerator instead of on top of the kitchen counter or in the sink.

messyPrevent Kitchen Fires

  • Focus on the task at hand. Do not leave items on the stove and then leave to fold laundry or watch TV. Instead, remain in the kitchen so you can quickly control any flare-ups.
  • Remove clutter. If you are cooking an elaborate meal, clean up as you go to keep your workspace clutter free. Towels or wooden utensils are highly flammable, so keep a “clear zone” around the range top and oven.
  • Thoroughly clean cooking surfaces to prevent high-fat food residue buildup, which can be flammable.
  • Be careful if you are frying foods. Remember that water and hot oil are incompatible. So don’t put frozen foods into hot oil.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen to put out fires before they get out of control. Make sure you are using the right type of extinguisher for the fire you are battling. If you need to use it, remember the acronym PASS – pull, aim, squeeze and sweep.

Additional tips for holiday kitchen safety:

  • Monitor the kids. Keep children out of the kitchen during meal preparation. While you might be able to supervise kids in less hectic times, crowded kitchens and lots of activity can lead to accidents. So save culinary lessons for after the holidays. Also, keeping children away from meal preparation will prevent curious little hands from pulling on pot handles.Overwhelmed and frustrated Mom in the kitchen
  • Clean up spills. A slippery floor is a major hazard in the kitchen, since people often carry sharp knives and boiling water. So immediately wipe spills until surfaces are completely dry.
  • Use knives properly. There is a proper way to chop different types of foods, which can prevent the loss of a fingertip and a trip to the emergency room on Christmas Day. In addition, remember that, as counter intuitive as it sounds, it is safer to use a razor sharp knife than a dull blade.
  • Steam burns. Some foods, such as instant rice and veggies, now come in convenient plastic microwaveable packets. If you decide to use these, make sure to open away from your face.

The holidays are a busy time. Adding several relatives and planning big elaborate meals challenge even the most organized host. So follow these kitchen safety practices to ensure everyone has a happy and safe holiday season.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think safety all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

How to Avoid Food Poisoning

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Food Poisoning Firedog 2According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), consumers spend about half of their food budget on meals prepared outside of their homes. This statistic is significant, because 60 percent of foodborne outbreaks are reportedly caused by fare which is prepared in restaurants. Does this mean you should baton down the hatches and resolve never to eat out again? Not at all. After all; 40 percent of food that has the capacity to make you sick is sitting in your own pantry or refrigerator. So the best course of action is to make sure you take necessary precautions to remain food-safe, no matter where you choose to dine.

What is Foodborne Illness?

An infection or irritation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, foodborne illnesses are caused by foods or beverages that contain harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses or chemicals. Common symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever and chills. In more severe cases, patients may experience headaches, tingling or numbness of the skin, blurred vision, weakness, dizziness and paralysis.

Food Poisoning Corp 1Here are some additional facts about foodborne illnesses:

  • Each year, an estimated 48 million people in the United States experience a foodborne illness.
  • Most foodborne illnesses are acute, meaning they come on suddenly and are short-lived.
  • Many people who contract foodborne illnesses wrongly assume they have the stomach flu.
  • Most victims recover on their own, without medical intervention.
  • For people whose immune systems are compromised – such as the sick, children or the elderly – foodborne illness might lead to more serious complications.
  • In the U.S., foodborne illnesses cause 128,000 hospitalizations and about 3,000 deaths each year.

Food Poisoning Corp 2Five Steps for Food Safety When Dining Out

  1. Assess the scene. Look for certificates that show food-safety practices (e.g., most recent health inspection score and manager’s completion of food-safety training). Note whether the glasses, silverware, napkins and table cloths, and restroom are clean. As a rule, restaurateurs who keep facilities clean also pay attention to the condition of their kitchens.
  2. Cook it well. Make sure your food has been thoroughly cooked. It is particularly important for foods like meat, poultry, and fish to be cooked thoroughly to kill harmful bacteria.
  3. Pick the right place. To be safe, eat sushi only in A-rated kitchens, which purchase sushi-grade fish. If you feel uneasy at a restaurant, don’t second-guess the instinct. Better to be safe than sorry.

  4. Ask before ordering. Beware of potential hazards in raw foods and undercooked eggs, chicken, pork or fish. Ask for meats to be well-done. Check to make sure sauces have been commercially pasteurized.
  5. Refrigerate leftovers—post haste. Unless you are heading right home, leave leftovers behind. As a rule, food should be stowed in cold storage within two hours of being served or, one hour if temperatures are above 90°F. So, storing leftovers in the car while you see a movie is a bad idea.

Five Steps for Food Safety When Dining In

  1. Follow proper food preparation rules. When it comes to food prep, proper hygiene is critical. Wash your hands before handling food. And, as you work, pay close attention to which surfaces and utensils come in contact with raw meat and juices. Scrub everything in hot soapy water.
  1. Keep hot food hot.  Once food is cooked, it should be held at an internal temperature of 140°F or above. Storing food on top of the stove to keep it warm (between 40°F and 140°F) is not safe. Use a food thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the food and, when in doubt, throw it out!
  2. Keep cold food cold. Follow the above rules for cold foods, as well. But make sure internal temperature is kept at or below 40°F.
  3. Follow the two-hour rule. Throw away perishable foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, and casseroles and side dishes containing eggs or mayonnaise, if they have been left at room temperature longer than two hours (or one hour if temperatures are above 90°F).
  4. Eat leftovers sooner rather than later. If you prepare more food than your family consumes at any given time, put leftovers in the fridge or freezer—and eat them within three to four days.

How to treat foodborne illness

The most common treatment for mild cases of foodborne illness is to replace lost fluids and electrolytes to prevent dehydration. If you suspect you have contracted foodborne illness, drink plenty of liquids such as fruit juices, sports drinks, caffeine-free soft drinks and broths. Older adults and adults with weak immune systems should also drink oral re-hydration solutions to prevent dehydration.

Over-the-counter medications may also be helpful, as they can be used to halt diarrhea in adults. However, these could pose a danger to infants and children, so contact your healthcare provider for information about treating children. As you begin to recover, gradually reintroduce a bland, “BRAT” diet (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast). Also recommended for recovery are easy-to-digest foods such as potatoes, bread, cereal and lean meat. During recovery, also avoid foods that are high in fat and sugar, or which contain dairy products, caffeine and alcohol.

We hope that this blog post will help you take steps to stay healthy and avoid contracting foodborne illness. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. Visit to read about the many ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.