Food poisoning

We've all driven the porcelain bus at some time. How can you avoid food poisoning?
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  • Updated:1 Jun 2005

05.How to spot a dodgy cafe

Although there's no real guarantee that just because an outlet looks hygienic it is, you can at least avoid the worst places by keeping a lookout for:

  • Dirty floors, counters and tables — they can carry bacteria and attract pests. If people can't keep their premises clean, chances are they don't do much better with the food.
  • Staff with dirty hands or fingernails, dangling jewellery and long hair not tied back.
  • Staff wiping surfaces or equipment with a non-disposable cloth — or not disposing of it afterwards. Just because a cloth looks clean doesn't mean it is.
  • Staff using the same set of tongs for different types of food — for example, salads and meat.
  • Staff not washing their hands after handling raw meat.
  • Don't automatically think that if they're wearing gloves everything is OK. If they handle money as well as your food, or if they don't change the gloves when handling different foods, the exercise is pointless.
  • Dirty crockery, cutlery or glasses — including chips and cracks.
  • Lukewarm foods that should be hot, and cold foods that aren't quite cold. Hot foods should be kept above 60°C (steaming hot) and cold foods below 5°C to stop most bacteria from multiplying.
  • Unrefrigerated prepacked sandwiches.
  • Foods that aren't cooked right through — watch out for pink bits in the centre of hamburger meat and pink uncooked chicken (particularly near the bone).
  • Raw and cooked foods, such as salads and meats, touching each other in display units.
  • Food displayed uncovered or unwrapped on counters.
  • Condensation dripping from display cabinets onto foods.

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