Food poisoning – 4 most dangerous foods to prepare at home

Food poisoning: Expert gives advice on safe food storage

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When it comes to preparing food at home, you need to make sure you’re aware of the foods you cook all the time that are considered “high risk” for food poisoning. Reheating dinner from a few nights ago could make you very unwell, and the way you prepare food could also put you and your family at risk. These are the four most dangerous foods that you probably cook every week.

In professional kitchens, chefs have to follow a strict code to ensure food hygiene standards are met.

But when you’re cooking at home, it’s unlikely you follow the same rules chefs are held to.

You should wash your hands regularly while cooking, and keep pets out of the kitchen, but what are the most dangerous ingredients you probably cook with every week?

Paul Rossiter, a chef with 20 years of experience, has weighed in on “high-risk” foods and how to prepare them safely.

Mr Rossiter said: “All food poisoning-causing pathogens need three things to survive: temperature, time and moisture.

“Pathogens thrive in an environment where they are left at an ambient temperature, helping them to multiply in their millions.

“Once millions of pathogens are living in your food, and you eat it, you’re going to have a very painful couple of days sitting on the toilet. Or, in the most serious cases, you could end up in hospital with a life-threatening case of food poisoning.

“To control these factors, you need to ensure you’re storing fresh food in the fridge and not leaving it out for hours.

“Moisture is harder to control, but that’s why there’s little food poisoning risk with dried foods unless somehow moisture has got in the packet.

“At work, my kitchen and chefs have to follow a very strict regimen to ensure there is no risk of food spoiling or cross-contamination, especially as a brigade of ten chefs move quickly around the kitchen, but anyone preparing food for themselves or their family should follow these same rules.”

These are four of the most dangerous foods to prepare at home

Rice

A common topic of debate, food hygiene guidelines say you must eat rice within 24 hours of cooking it and reheating rice more than once can cause food poisoning.

Mr Rossiter said: “Bacillus cereus is a bacteria that grows on rice, and over time it grows spores: hard shells that are harder to kill off in the heating process.

“Bacillus cereus is a very harmful bacteria, it produces toxins causing diarrhea, cramps and vomiting.”

There’s even a syndrome named after it: “fried rice syndrome”.

Mr Rossiter said: “If you’re cooking rice at home and have leftovers, leave it out for no more than an hour, or put it straight in the fridge.

“Only ever reheat rice once. Heat it in a microwave or a frying pan, but you have to make sure the core temperature hits 75 degrees – piping hot.”

“Once you’ve reheated rice, it can’t go back into the fridge or freezer to heat up another time, it’s got to go in the bin after that. Never reheat rice twice.”

Chicken

Raw chicken contains harmful bacteria that can make you very unwell.

For this reason, you should make sure raw chicken doesn’t come into contact with other utensils, chopping boards or surfaces.

Mr Rossiter said: “In my kitchens, we always use colour-coded chopping boards to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.

“We stick to a system of separate chopping boards for raw meat, which are washed after each use.”

The NHS also advises against washing chicken before you cook with it for this reason.

Raw chicken contains a bacteria called campylobacter which is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK, washing chicken can cause splashing water spreading this bacteria around your kitchen.

Washing won’t kill this bacteria, only cooking chicken properly will.

Mr Rossiter said: “We use a temperature probe to ensure the core temperature of chicken hits 75C. It should absolutely never be pink.

“Undercooked chicken contains many harmful pathogens, but the main and most well-known pathogen is salmonella.”

Prawns

Don’t let raw fish or juices from any raw fish come into contact with anything else in your kitchen.

Mr Rossiter said: “This can cause a particularly nasty bout of food poisoning that could land you in hospital.

“You must make sure you cook prawns until they’re pink, if you’re eating pre-cooked prawns either eat them cold or reheat until they are piping hot.”

Older adults, pregnant women and young children, in particular, are warned against eating raw fish (such as sushi) or undercooked prawns as they are at particular risk of food poisoning.

Raw vegetables

Vegetables can have harmful bacteria on their outside if they aren’t washed properly.

Mr Rossiter said: “If you’re chopping up carrot sticks or snacking on raw broccoli, you really should be washing them thoroughly.

“Unwashed vegetables can have soil left on them which, if contaminated, could harbour E. coli which can cause a serious case of food poisoning.

“In the absolute worst case, E. coli can cause kidney failure.”

Unwashed vegetables can also contain a pathogen called Campylobacter which can be fatal to those who have vulnerable immune systems, so wash your vegetables thoroughly.

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