5 Tips To Reduce Your Risk Of Foodborne Illness

Could your food-prep and cooking methods put you at risk for diarrhea, fever, and more? Find out how to defeat many common foodborne illnesses in your kitchen.

Prepping foods in bulk has become the norm within the fitness industry. Unfortunately, patience and attention to detail often fall by the wayside, which can lead to frequent dates with the toilet or a trip to the hospital.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were more than 48 million illnesses in 2013 related to food.1-3 Sit-down restaurants are still the most prevalent location for bacterial exposure; however, cooking and preparing food at home can still expose you to disease.1-3 Implement safe prep, cooking, and handling techniques to minimize your exposure.

Bacteria Common Foods Consequences
Salmonella Poultry, eggs, cookie dough Severe diarrhea, stomach cramps, fever
Shiga toxin-producing E. coli Steak, ground meats, water Severe diarrhea, blood in stool, stomach cramps, fever
Campylobacter Poultry, water, produce Severe diarrhea, blood in stool, stomach cramps, fever

1. Wash Your Hands

Always wash your hands before and after handling food, particularly produce and raw meat. If you're unsure whether you've touched raw meat, wash your hands just to be safe. This is especially true with the ever-popular chicken breast, so take extra caution when handling this type of protein.

2. Handle With Care

Don't prep raw meat and fresh produce simultaneously. For safety and efficiency, cut, prep, season, and place lean protein in the oven first. Use separate, clean utensils and cutting boards to prep your produce. This will ensure raw meat juice does not contaminate your produce, minimizing the risk of infection. It will also save you time with food prep.

3. Cook Thoroughly

Failure to cook food to the proper internal temperature significantly increases your risk for consuming contaminated food. Sure, you may notice that grilling last week's chicken breast for 10 minutes on each side was enough to get the job done; however, next week's chicken may be shaped differently or larger in size, thus changing the appropriate cooking time.

Using a meat thermometer, ensure that the thickest part of the chicken reaches 165 degrees F. An additional method to double-check the doneness of your chicken is to ensure you see no pink and that the juices run clear. If not, make sure you continue cooking your chicken, regardless of the food thermometer reading.

Refer to these temperature guide to minimize your contamination risk.4

Protein Type Minimum Internal Temperature (degrees F)
Steak 145°
Pork 145°
Lamb 145°
Seafood and shellfish 155°
Ground meat 155°
Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck) 165°

4. When in Doubt, Throw It Out

If something smells funky or looks off-color, toss it. That additional bite may provide you with 5 gram of protein, but it could cost you five days of training.

5. Think Through Thawing

To thaw meat, simply place it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator overnight. Depending on the size of the packaging and amount of protein, 12-24 hours should be sufficient to completely thaw your food. Placing it on the top shelf increases the risk of raw meat juice dripping onto other items in your refrigerator.

If you're short on time, thaw the meat under warm running water; however, make sure you cook the meat immediately afterward. Don't let the meat sit a bowl of warm water—a method that's just asking for bacterial growth!

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Surveillance for Foodborne Disease Outbreaks, United States, 2013, Annual Report. Atlanta, Georgia: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC, 2015. Accessed November 16, 2015. http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/pdfs/foodborne-disease-outbreaks-annual-report-2013-508c.pdf.
  2. Scallan, E., Hoekstra, R. M., Angulo, F. J., Tauxe, R. V., Widdowson, M. A., Roy, S. L., ... & Griffin, P. M. (2011). Foodborne illness acquired in the United States—major pathogens. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 17(1), 7-15.
  3. Scallan, E., Griffin, P.M., Angulo, F.J., Tauxe, R.V. & Hoekstra, R.M. (2011). Foodborne illness acquired in the United States—unspecified agents. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 17(1), 16-22.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). E. coli. Revised November 2015. Accessed November 16, 2015. http://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/general/index.html.