Preventing Home Borne Food Poisoning

While the focus of much of the news is on the restaurant business, certainly much of the food borne illness occurs in the home. Data on this part of the epidemic is largely unreported, unless the patient becomes profoundly ill and is admitted to a hospital. There are important steps you can take to prevent food poisoning at home. Cleaning and disinfecting is not the same thing. Cleaning removes germs from surfaces – whereas disinfecting actually destroys them. Cleaning with soap and water to remove dirt and most of the germs is usually enough. But sometimes, you may want to disinfect for an extra level of protection from germs.

  • While surfaces may look clean, many infectious germs may be lurking around. In some instances, germs can live on surfaces for hours – and even days.
  • Disinfectants are specifically registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and contain ingredients that actually destroy bacteria and other germs. Check the product label to make sure it says “Disinfectant” and has an EPA registration number.

Disinfect those areas where there can be large numbers of dangerous germs – and where there is a possibility that these germs could be spread to others. Routinely Clean and Disinfect Surfaces

In the Kitchen:

  • Clean and disinfect counters and other surfaces before, during, and after preparing food (especially meat and poultry).
  • Follow all directions on the product label, which usually specifies letting the disinfectant stand for a few minutes.
  • When cleaning surfaces, don’t let germs hang around on cleaning cloths or towels! Use paper towels that can be thrown away OR cloth towels that are later washed in hot water.

In the Bathroom:

  • Routinely clean and disinfect all surfaces. This is especially important if someone in the house has a stomach illness, a cold, or the flu. Use disposable sanitizing wipes that both clean and disinfect.


Author: Dr. Harlan Stueven, MD

Harlan Stueven M.D. is a Board-Certified Emergency physician with sub-specialization in Environmental Toxicology and Board Certification in Medical Toxicology. Starting his career in the USAF, he served as a Flight Surgeon and Environmental Health Consultant Physician where one of his duties was monitoring food safety. In his nearly 40-year practice, he treated a range of medical, surgical and poisoning emergencies. He has been a Medical Director and/or Chairman of several hospital-based Emergency Medicine Departments, served as the President of Emergency and Environmental Medicine consulting group, a physician group Chief Financial Officer and sat on many national, state and local committees. Dr. Stueven founded Dining Grades and the Dining Safety Alliance to improve food safety by increasing awareness of food borne illness and the formation of partnerships within the food industry. He is a consultant to the Wisconsin Retail Food Establishment Grading Work Group; a Co-investigator in a CDC funded “Evaluation of Health Department Restaurant Inspection Programs” project. He has presented at several National, State and Regional conferences on restaurant grading and food safety. He is an accomplished leader, medical researcher, a champion of process improvement, author, and national and international speaker.

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