Don't Get Food Poisoning! Ten Tips To Help Avoid It

Ask anyone who's ever had food poisoning, and they'll tell you that it's an experience that they wouldn't wish on their worst enemy. If you'd prefer never to experience foodborne illness for yourself, there are several things worth keeping in mind.

What we call "food poisoning" takes several forms, and they're all quite unpleasant, to say the least. You can contract a foodborne illness by eating food contaminated by bacteria, viruses, or parasites, as well as food containing toxins, like poisonous mushrooms. Vomiting, fever, aches, and repeated trips to the bathroom (we'll leave it at that) are common symptoms of foodborne illness, and in extreme cases a trip to the hospital may be necessary, especially if you become seriously dehydrated.

Don't Get Food Poisoning! Ten Tips to Help Avoid It (Slideshow)

The improper handling, storage, or preparation of food is the most common cause of food poisoning. While food safety is (or should be) a concern at just about every restaurant or other establishment that serves food, sometimes things fall through the cracks, and people get sick. Even eating unwashed lettuce can cause bacterial infections like E. coli or viral infections like hepatitis A, which are definitely not fun. There have been several major foodborne illness outbreaks in recent years, caused by everything from cheese sauce left sitting out for too long to contaminated alfalfa sprouts, and even  large chains are susceptible.  

If you're looking to avoid food poisoning, the most important tool to use is your brain. If you walk into a restaurant that's filthy, you can probably assume that the kitchen will be in even worse shape than the dining room, and no one will blame you for high-tailing it out of there. If you're on the fence about whether that week-old tuna sandwich is still any good, throw it out, because the joy you may receive from eating it isn't worth the agony that will likely ensue. Here are 10 more handy tips and tricks to keep in mind if you don't want to get sick.

Wash Your Hands

Always wash your hands before eating anything, because if you don't, you'll also be eating everything that you've touched since the last time you washed your hands. Be especially careful if you've handled raw meat — in that case, wash your hands before you touch anything else, not just food.

Look Out for Cross-Contamination

If you've cut up raw chicken on a cutting board, common sense should tell you not to go ahead and prepare a salad with that same knife and cutting board without thoroughly washing them first. If anything's come in contact with raw meat, poultry, fish, or eggs, make sure it gets a thorough scrubbing with soap and hot water.