Prevent food poisoning – at home and when travelling

Anyone who has ever suffered food poisoning will not soon forget it. Prevention may be a nice word, but in many ways it has also become a hollow concept. After all, people quickly forget… apparently even when it concerns mild or severe food poisoning. Every year, almost two million patients visit their GP with complaints that are directly or indirectly related to a food infection. It is suspected that this is just the tip of the iceberg. The mild cases probably don’t even report. The restaurant where people last ate is often accused of not complying with hygiene measures. The blame is therefore quickly placed elsewhere, also a human trait. In reality, most cases of food poisoning (stomach flu) – more than 60 percent – occur at home in the kitchen due to carelessness.


  • Food poisoning lurking
  • Basic hygiene
  • Prevention is better than cure – the risk groups
  • Hygiene first
  • Purchase food items
  • Washing hands, dishcloths and dishwashing brushes
  • Clean kitchen utensils
  • Raw products, vegetables and fruits
  • Meat, fish and eggs


Food poisoning lurking

Food contaminated by pathogenic bacteria or toxins (from micro-organisms) often causes acute gastroenteritis (stomach flu). Staphylococci, colibacilli ( Escherichia coli ), salmonella and many other bacteria multiply rapidly in the gastrointestinal tract.

Source: Couleur, Pixabay

The complaints vary from diarrhea to abdominal pain, vomiting and fever, often with dehydration symptoms. It may be due to the salad prepared by someone who has not washed his hands, but in the summer, for example, a chicken leg that has not been on the barbecue long enough can also cause a salmonella infection.

Basic hygiene

Food poisoning is an attack on the system. In most cases, people are out of action for at least a few days. However, if you observe basic hygiene rules, you will never experience this problem at home. Anyone who often eats outside is of course at the mercy of the gods. After all, no one sees what is going on in the kitchens of restaurants and (cheap) eateries, not to mention abroad, despite the hard work of the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority.

Prevention is better than cure – the risk groups

Adults in good condition will certainly be able to get over a bad stomach flu . It is different with pregnant women, babies, toddlers and preschoolers, the elderly and the sick, or the risk groups that are extra vulnerable to food poisoning. In young children the immune system is still developing. In pregnant women, food poisoning is downright dangerous and the toxins of the pathogenic micro-organisms can even cause premature birth. In any case, the elderly have a reduced defense against pathogens.
Gastrointestinal complaints
However, food poisoning is relatively easy to prevent if some basic rules are observed. However, this is done on a massive scale, as evidenced by the hundreds of thousands to millions of people who present to the GP every year with serious digestive complaints that often result in hospital admission.

Hygiene first

Careless handling of food, letting the expiration date of products expire, poor personal hygiene, dishcloths being used for anything and everything – these kitchen problems have often been investigated and everyone ‘knows how to do it’. A change in mentality may be the only thing that helps to put a stop to the many GP consultations and hospital admissions as a result of food poisoning due to poor hygiene. Below you will find a lot of advice, divided into five groups. They should actually hang on the refrigerator or notice board in every kitchen. The list below does not claim to be complete. Complete it as desired, preferably also by the other housemates. After all , when it comes to hygiene , one cannot be interactive enough…

Source: Gadini, Pixabay

Purchase food items

  • Always check whether the expiry date of food products has not expired. Do not buy cans that are dented or have a bulging lid. Also pay attention to the vacuum packaging of products. Nor should it be bulging (as a result of gas formation).
  • Only put frozen products in the shopping cart when you have finished shopping and can go to the checkout. Then put them in a freezer bag for transport home, and then immediately put them in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • When opening a can, the contents should not squirt out or smell suspiciously. In that case, throw away the contents immediately and make sure that pets cannot reach them.
  • Take the storage instructions for food products seriously. The freezer should be at least -18°C, and the refrigerator preferably at 4°C.
  • As a rule, do not store opened products in the refrigerator for more than two days. Don’t taste foods that don’t smell good or look ‘weird’.


Washing hands, dishcloths and dishwashing brushes

  • Wash your hands after every visit to the toilet. Also do this before and during the preparation of the meal. Never forget to wash your hands after handling raw meat and eggs. Do not touch pets while cooking. Teach dogs, cats, free-flying canaries and parrots not to enter the kitchen.
  • Replace cloth dishcloths every day. Wash them at a minimum of 60°C. It is better to use paper towels to wipe the countertop, for example, as it is much more hygienic.
  • Hang out towels and tea towels to dry and put them in the wash every day. Also replace the dishwashing sponges regularly. Even better: use a dishwashing brush or, if necessary, a steel sponge.
  • Do not leave waste in the kitchen for too long and wash the waste bin regularly.
  • Make sure you don’t have flies in your house. The fly transmits many germs and is therefore a source of infection.


Clean kitchen utensils

  • Make sure the utensils are thoroughly washed. Use a separate cutting board for processing raw meat. Then wash the cutting board with hot water and soap.
  • Also put the can opener and kitchen scissors in the dishes. That is often forgotten. Always ensure a sparkling clean and dry countertop.
  • Also clean the kitchen appliances thoroughly. Again, meat and fish boards are by definition a source of bacteria. So wash them thoroughly on a routine basis.


Source: Peggy Marco, Pixabay

Raw products, vegetables and fruits

  • Be careful with raw products! Particularly protein-rich foods, such as fish, meat, poultry and eggs. Discard an egg with a broken shell. Be careful with sushi, oysters, etc.
  • Heat or cool raw foods. Bacteria can no longer multiply above 70°C and below 4°C.
  • Do not put raw and cooked products together during preparation. For example, do not pierce raw meat and then stir it into lettuce.
  • Wash vegetables and fruit under running water and peel the products. Clean the countertop regularly while cooking.


Meat, fish and eggs

  • Always thaw meat in the refrigerator. Bacteria multiply rapidly on meat that is at room temperature on the outside but still frozen on the inside.
  • Never let meat juices drip onto other foods.
  • Never use raw eggs in dishes that are not heated properly afterwards.
  • Cook the meat until it is no longer red or pink. Fish should fall apart into pieces after preparation.
  • Use a meat thermometer when preparing large pieces of meat or poultry. Especially if they are prepared in the microwave. This way you can be sure that the meat is also cooked on the inside.
  • Only taste minced meat and other meat and fish dishes when the products are completely cooked.


read more

  • First aid for food poisoning
  • Traveler’s diarrhea – causes, treatment and prevention
  • Vomit – what can you tell from it?
  • Anatomy & physiology in 10 steps – the gastrointestinal tract
  • Amoeba dysentery – causes, symptoms, treatment