Barbecues, buffets and doggy bags are off limits and I will NEVER touch oysters: The microbiologist’s essential guide to what (and WHERE) not to eat

Oysters should not be on the menu and caution should be taken at picnics. At least if you want to avoid food poisoning.

For a microphoneThe robiologist shared her top tips and tricks to prevent you from being struck with debilitating stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea.

Dr. Primrose Freestone, a lecturer at the University of Leicester, says she avoids eating in certain situations – such as barbecues and picnics – and never asks for a doggy bag for her leftovers in restaurants.

Although they are seemingly harmless activities, they carry the risk of making you feel unwell from improperly prepared food – which in severe cases can be fatal.

Here are the tips she shared with The Conversation.

Dr. Primrose Freestone, a lecturer at the University of Leicester, says she avoids eating in certain situations - such as barbecues and picnics - and never asks for a doggy bag for her leftovers in restaurants

Dr. Primrose Freestone, a lecturer at the University of Leicester, says she avoids eating in certain situations – such as barbecues and picnics – and never asks for a doggy bag for her leftovers in restaurants

Avoid barbecues and picnics

For millions of us, a summer highlight is taking mealtimes outside for picnics and barbecues.

But Dr. Freestone warned that the risk of food poisoning skyrockets once food is taken outdoors due to unclean hands, germ-infested insects and temperature. She said she “rarely” eats outside.

Washing hands before touching food is important to avoid discomfort, but there are rarely opportunities to do that when eating outside, she said.

While hand sanitizer is better than nothing, it doesn’t always kill germs lurking on your food.

Additionally, flies, wasps and ants abound and often swarm when eating outside, which can spread E. coli, salmonella and listeria, she noted.

What is food poisoning?

Food poisoning is caused by eating food contaminated with germs.

Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps and fever are the main symptoms.

They usually begin within a few days of eating the food that caused the infection.

Most cases can be treated at home by drinking plenty of fluids, with symptoms usually disappearing within a week.

Food poisoning is caused by improper cooking or reheating of food, improper storage, leaving it out for too long, or eating food past its expiration date.

Controlling the temperature of food outdoors presents another challenge because warm weather encourages the growth of germs, Dr. Freestone.

Thoroughly cooking food on the grill can also be difficult and can increase the risk of consuming bacteria that cause food poisoning.

Be careful at buffets

Filling your plate with a variety of foods during a restaurant, hotel, or all-inclusive vacation buffet may sound like a dream.

But it’s not risk-free, warns Dr. Freestone.

Trays of fruit, meat and eggs are exposed to the elements, with insects, dust and other food posing a risk of contamination through touch, coughing or sneezing.

While perishable foods like seafood, salads and desserts are safe to eat for two hours after being removed from the refrigerator, it’s hard to tell how long the buffet food has been on the market.

And lukewarm rather than hot food at 60°C (140°F) is a breeding ground for bacteria that cause food poisoning.

Dr. For any buffet that doesn’t meet these criteria, Freestone recommended sticking to toasting or being first in line at the buffet and paying attention to how often perishable foods are replaced.

Don’t eat shellfish

Although raw shellfish such as oysters, mussels and cockles are popular, they can be pathogens.

Even if they don’t look or smell unpleasant, they can be filled with germs like the Vibrio bacteria, which causes nausea and diarrhea, says Dr. Freestone, who said she would “never” eat raw shellfish.

Oysters can also contain noroviruses, which are transmitted through human wastewater to the areas where they grow, making them vectors of disease.

Consuming raw shellfish in any form poses a risk of food poisoning, warned Dr. Freestone.

Approximately 14,000 people in the UK and 80,000 in the US become ill from eating seafood, with oysters being the leading cause.

However, health authorities point out that the risk of disease is relatively low with the 13 million oysters served in the UK each year.

Avoid packaged salad

Ready-to-eat bags of lettuce, spinach and arugula are a refrigerator staple for many.

But they are another taboo for Dr. Freestone. They can also be filled with E. coli, salmonella and listeria, which grow a thousand times better when packaged in a bag with juices made from lettuce leaves, she warned.

Outbreaks of food poisoning have been traced to bags of arugula.

And studies suggest that storing lettuce in bags helps bacteria mutate and become more contagious.

However, Dr. Freestone notes that the risk is low for most as long as the lettuce bags are refrigerated, washed well and eaten soon after purchase.

Rethink your cooking habits

Most people might think they know their way around their kitchen.

But they could fight Dr. Violating Freestone’s list of do’s and don’ts to avoid food poisoning.

Washing hands before and after handling food is a must, as is using different cutting boards for raw and cooked foods, she says.

And while storing leftovers is a good way to reduce food waste, Dr. Freestone advises against saving cooked rice to reheat the next day.

Because uncooked rice can be contaminated with Bacillus cereus, which can lead to food poisoning.

The bacteria is killed when the rice is cooked, but its spores survive, allowing the bacteria to grow again when the rice cools to room temperature and then is reheated.

Dr. Freestone also recommends not always relying on expiration dates.

If the label states that a food is safe to eat for a few more days, she throws it out if it looks or smells different than expected or if the packaging looks swollen – a tell-tale sign that there is something inside Food bacteria have formed.

Don’t ask for a dog bag

After enjoying a meal at a restaurant, it can be tempting to take the leftovers with you to enjoy later.

However, this could pose another risk of food poisoning, warns Dr. Freestone.

As a rule, the two-hour deadline for cooling food after cooking was exceeded, making it unsafe to eat.

She wrote, “I never collect ‘doggy bags’ of leftover food (usually they’re past the two-hour limit), even if they’re actually intended for a pet.”

Drew Weisholtz

Drew Weisholtz is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Drew Weisholtz joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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