Take a bite of a questionable burger or dunk your chip into a dip that's been sitting out and you could kiss the next day or two good-bye.
Food poisoning can be torture, full of symptoms like severe upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea.
The good news? You can easily sidestep getting sick with these tips.
|Wash with a vengeance|
Prior to handling any food, always wash your hands with warm, soapy water—and make sure that any cutting boards, colanders, or knives you're using are clean.
|Clean those fruits and veggies|
Tumble tender fruits such as raspberries and grapes under cold running water in a colander, and scrub firmer produce (pears, apples, tomatoes) with your hands under the running water. Also scrub root vegetables with a clean vegetable brush.
Peel and discard the outer leaves of leafy vegetables such as spinach and lettuce.
|Beat the clock|
Food poisoning prevention begins at the supermarket, says Catherine Cutter, PhD.
Once you take a piece of meat from its refrigerated case and put it in your shopping cart, the bacterial growth clock starts ticking. Buy your meat last, and keep it out of direct sun on the ride home.
"Get it refrigerated as soon as possible to keep microorganisms from growing to high levels," she says.
Rule of thumb: If the food sits out for more than two hours at room temperature, it's gone from edible to disposable. This happens faster on hot days, so turn up the car's A/C if necessary.
|Cut with care|
Even fruits and vegetables with inedible rinds should be thoroughly washed before they're cut, because rinds (especially the lumpy "netted" rinds of fruits such as cantaloupe) can trap bacteria that a knife blade can transfer to the fruit.
And because bacteria can thrive in moist, bruised areas on produce, cut away those spots as soon as possible.
Even trace amounts of bacteria on cut produce can multiply to lethal levels if left at room temperature, so refrigerate cut or sliced fruits and veggies.
In summer, foodborne illness spikes, so bring ice-packed coolers to picnics to chill those foods. And never eat foods left out for longer than 2 hours (on, say, a crudités platter, or left over from a meal).
|Don't eat at your desk|
One study found the average desktop has 100 times more bacteria than a kitchen table and 400 times more than the average toilet seat. One possible reason may be because you clean your toilet and kitchen more than you clean your workspace: Only 36 percent of people clean their work areas—desktop, keyboard, mouse—weekly, according to the survey.