Food poisoning — also called food-borne illness — causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Food poisoning is caused by harmful organisms such as bacteria in contaminated food. Because bacteria typically don’t change the taste, smell or appearance of food, you can’t tell whether a food is dangerous to eat. So if you’re in doubt about a food’s safety, it’s best to throw it out.
Fortunately, most cases of food poisoning can be prevented with proper food handling. To practice food safety, quickly refrigerate perishable foods such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs — don’t let them sit more than two hours at typical room temperature or more than one hour at temperatures above 32°C. Uncooked foods, such as cold salads or sandwiches, also should be eaten or refrigerated promptly. Your goal is to minimize the time a food is in the “danger zone” — between 4° C and 60° C — when bacteria can multiply.
Before eating leftovers, reheat them thoroughly. Reheat leftover sauces, soups and gravies to boiling. If you’re using the oven to reheat leftovers, set the temperature no lower than 163° C to ensure they’re reheated quickly. Because they may not get hot enough, slow cookers and chafing dishes aren’t recommended for reheating leftovers. To safely reheat cooked food in a microwave oven:
* Cover foods with a lid or a microwave-safe plastic wrap to hold in moisture and provide safe, even heating. Turn back a corner for the steam to vent.
* After reheating foods in the microwave oven, allow standing time. Then, use a clean food thermometer to check that food has reached 74° C.