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How to protect yourself from food poisoning?

Less fatty, less salty, less sweet, without additives and without preservatives… Homemade products no longer need to demonstrate their many nutritional advantages compared to industrial dishes. It also weighs less on the budget for a decent meal. But the storage, preparation, preparation, and preservation of home-cooked meals are not without danger, as the poisoning of 15 people, one of whom died after botulinum-containing home-canned sardines, was a stark reminder.

According to the Pasteur Institute, botulism outbreaks in France remain rare, at about ten per year. But botulinum toxin is far from the only danger facing chefs and their guests. Norovirus and rotavirus, hepatitis A virus, salmonella, listeriaEscherichia coli, Campylobacter, Clostridium botulinum… Many viruses and bacteria can be present in food when it is purchased or contaminated after contact with inadequately cleaned utensils, work surfaces, knives or hands.

These pathogens can cause foodborne illness (TIA), which affects around 1.5 million French people every year, according to an estimate by Public Health France published in 2018. While most infected people only suffer from mild symptoms (diarrhea, vomiting, digestive pain, etc.) that go away on their own within a few days, a TIA can have much more serious consequences. They cause 18,000 hospitalizations and 250 deaths each year.

“We are not all equal when it comes to these infections, and we still don’t know all the factors that could explain why among guests who have eaten the same thing, some will have few or no symptoms, while others will be very sick.recalls Dr. Osean Sorel of virology, who goes by the name @TheFrenchVirologist on Instagram and is an author Viruses, bacteria, germs. Everything you need to know to get away (Éditions Marabout, to be published on October 11). But one thing is certain, situations or ages in life where immunity is less effective make them more vulnerable to these TIAs. . Pregnant women, the elderly, young children and patients suffering from chronic diseases or undergoing immunosuppressive treatment are therefore particularly at risk.”

Simple but imperative rules

To limit microbiological risks in young children (0 to 3 years), the National Agency for Health Security (ANSES) has published a list of foods to avoid (raw eggs, milk and preparations containing milk cheeses), raw shellfish, raw fish and meat and etc): It is also recommended to thoroughly cook meat, especially minced meat, for up to 10 years.

The rules of respect at any age are simple, but imperative. “Living in a country with high health standards can create the illusion that everything we buy is completely ‘safe’, but nothing can be 100% perfect. Requiring us to adhere to certain principles of hygiene is therefore an additional barrier that we can put up to avoid problems. emphasizes Océane Sorel. The 2022 case of pizzas contaminated with E. Coli showed that food preparation is a crucial point.” In early 2022, 55 children, two of whom died, were poisoned by Buitoni brand pizzas sold in the fresh section. Heating the pizzas in the microwave rather than the oven could have encouraged infections. “Many people are rightly wary of raw food, but imagine that if it is cooked, it is no longer dangerous. However, to kill all germs, it requires uniform cooking, at a high temperature and for a long time, which is rarely possible in a microwave oven.warns the scientist.

And there are few foods that are completely safe. A vegan diet does not protect you from infection, as fruits and vegetables can carry various pathogens (hepatitis A virus, listeria, etc.). Pasta, rice, or all dry foods in general can also pose a risk after cooking, even after cooking in boiling water. These foods can actually harbor spores, dormant and highly resistant bacteria (Bacillus cereus, in particular) that, when placed under ideal conditions of humidity and temperature, can grow bacteria and/or produce toxins. If you do not eat them immediately after cooking, it is recommended to refrigerate pasta, rice, etc. for two hours.

You must have a 4-star refrigerator to refrigerate cooked food. A small freezer above the fridge is not enough

Osean Sorel, Doctor of Virology

Refrigerators have certainly been a revolution, but they shouldn’t convince people that everything they put in them is safe. “The refrigerator slows down the spread of germs, but does not kill them, just as the refrigerator only blocks their development. Furthermore, listeria continues to grow in the refrigerator., claims Océane Sorel. Therefore, it is recommended not to store dishes for more than three days, and if they contain raw eggs (chocolate mousse, mayonnaise, tiramisu, etc.), not more than 24 hours. For batch cooks, this means freezing Sunday’s meals over the weekend. “And be careful. you must have a 4-star freezer to freeze ready meals. The small freezer above the fridge is not enough.”the scientist specifies.

From the fridge to the cutting board, you should of course ensure that you systematically clean and disinfect your tools and surfaces regularly. And, contrary to popular opinion, alcoholic vinegar is not enough. Regardless of the selected product, you must follow the instructions for use and the recommended application time. Otherwise, your kitchen can quickly turn into a veritable kennel.

Source: Le Figaro

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