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Food Safety

Autumn '95

Food poisoning (also called food borne illness) can occur when you eat foods that contain large amounts of harmful bacteria. Food poisoning is of special concern to a person with HIV infection or AIDS, because it can cause diarrhea, nauseam and vomiting, all of which can make it difficult to eat and can lead to weight loss. It is important to pay careful attention to food safety while shopping, preparing, serving, and storing foods, as well as eating away from home. Unfortunately, contaminated foods do not necessarily change in smell, taste, appearance, or texture. Here are some tips:


  • Check the dates on food containers. Don't use packaged food past the recommended date on the label.
  • Shop for cold and frozen foods last and ask that these foods be packed in the same bag.
  • Carry a cooler in the car to store cold and frozen foods if the trip home is longer than 30 minutes.
  • Check your own refrigerator occasionally for foods that are past their expiration dates.


Proper storage of foods is a key step to ensuring food safety. First, be sure to refrigerate or freeze foods that need cold storage as soon as possible after buying them. Cold foods should be stored in a refrigerator that is 40° or lower, and frozen foods in a freezer that is 0° or lower. Use a refrigerator thermometer to make sure the temperatures are in the proper range.

Remember that foods containing harmful bacteria will not always look or smell spoiled. If you're ever in doubt, it's best to throw it out.

Finally, always thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator or microwave and place leftover prepared foods containing meat, eggs, or milk products in the refrigerator or freezer immediately after eating.


Begin by washing your hands with soapy water. Be sure to wash your hands after handling any raw foods and before handling cooked foods.

Cutting boards and chipped china or crockery can collect bacteria that cause infection and always should be cleaned in a dishwasher or washed in hot (at least 140°), soapy water and rinsed well. After working with raw meats, fish, and poultry, it's a good idea to sanitize your cutting board by soaking it for 10 minutes in a mixture of 1 teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water. Clean counter tops with this same solution as an additional safety step.

More Tips
Meat Poultry, and Fish

Never consume raw meat, poultry or fish of any kind. Even steak tartare, carpaccio, raw oysters, raw shrimp, sashimi, or sushi topped with raw fish can cause serious infections. (if it is your culture to eat sashimi or sushi you can reduce your risk by getting the freshest fish possible, for more information contact the Asian Pacific Intervention Team at 213-353-6057.)

Cook all meats to 165°F or higher. Cook poultry to 180°F. Use a meat thermometer to be sure that a safe temperature is reached.

Never thaw frozen meat or foods containing dairy products at room temperature. Thaw them in a container on the bottom shelf of the fridge to keep juices from dripping on other foods.

When barbecuing, precook meats just before putting them on the grill to make sure that the inside reaches the proper temperature.

Eat meats and meat dishes while they are hot, and store leftovers in the refrigerator immediately after eating. Don't let them sit at room temperature.


At the grocery store, make sure that egg shells are not cracked. Refrigerate eggs immediately after purchase and until you're ready to use them. Never let eggs or dishes prepared with eggs sit out at room temperature.

Don't eat eggs that are soft-boiled, scrambled but runny, or sunny-side-up. Other foods prepared with uncooked or under cooked eggs - Caesar salad dressing, chocolate mousse, homemade eggnog or mayonnaise, and some frostings also should be avoided.

If a recipe calls for raw eggs and the mixture will not be cooked, use a frozen egg product that has been pasteurized (heat treated for safety). This product will serve the same purpose as the raw eggs.

Milk and Dairy Products

Buy only pasteurized milk and dairy products. Read the labels on cheeses, since not all of them are pasteurized.

Check the expiration date. Buy products before the expiration date on the package and use them within several days. Don't eat cheese that has mold on it.

Fruits and Vegetables

Choose fresh fruits and vegetables with unbroken skins.

Wash thoroughly and peel raw fruits and vegetables with skin that may hide soil particles.

Avoid moldy fruits and vegetables or produce with soft spots that show signs of mold.

Eating Away From Home

From time to time, you may enjoy eating away from home. The food safety tips for eating foods at home also apply to restaurant eating. Keep these tips in mind as well:

Be sure your eating utensils, beverage glasses and place settings are clean. Don't be shy about returning dirty utensils, food that is not hot enough, or food that is not cooked thoroughly.

It may be best to avoid salad bars because you can't be sure how well the vegetables or fruits have been washed or how they have been handled. If you are given a choice between salad or soup, choose the soup.

To be sure that meats are cooked thoroughly, order them medium-well to well-done.

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This article was provided by Women Alive. It is a part of the publication Women Alive Newsletter.