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5 ways to prevent food poisoning

It seems every week there is a new warning about a foodborne illness outbreak in the United States. While these illnesses (like salmonella, E. coli and listeria poisoning) are not always preventable, there are five things you can do to significantly reduce your chances of food poisoning, whether you are cooking at home or dining out. 

  • Suds up. Wash your hands thoroughly with warm, soapy water before cooking and after preparing raw meat. Switch utensils after they have touched raw meat so you don’t cross-contaminate between foods.

  • Take a whiff. If your food smells unusual or appears to have been sitting at room temperature for an extended period of time, discard it.

  • Speak up. If your meat or eggs appear to be undercooked when you are at a restaurant, send the dish back. Make sure your waiter brings you a fresh plate when he or she returns with your food.

  • Avoid the danger zone. Refrigerate perishable foods within two hours or within one hour if they are exposed to temperatures above 90 degrees.

  • Keep an eye on temperature. When cooking at home, be sure your food is cooked to a proper temperature to kill harmful germs. Food thermometers are affordable and available at most supermarkets. Follow these guidelines for safe minimum cooking temperatures (source: 

    • Eggs: Until the whites and yolk are firm

    • Casserole or leftovers: 165 degrees F 

    • Ground beef: 160 degrees F

    • Fresh pork or ham: At least 145 degrees F

    • Precooked ham (when reheating): 140 degrees F 

    • Fresh beef, lamb or veal: at least 145 degrees F

    • Chicken or turkey (including ground turkey or chicken): 165 degrees F

    • Fish: 145 degrees F

    • Seafood: Until pearly and opaque (crab, lobster, shrimp), or until shells open (clams, oysters, mussels) 

“Symptoms of food poisoning include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting,” says George Leach, M.D., an emergency medicine physician at Piedmont.

If your symptoms are uncontrolled and frequent, or if you become very dizzy or dehydrated, you may need to make a trip to your local urgent care center or the emergency department.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.


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