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How to Avoid Food Poisoning

08/23/2013 11:29 EDT | Updated 10/23/2013 05:12 EDT

There have been over 100 reports at the CNE this year of food poisoning. There are 4 million cases in Canada each year, many of them unreported, most of them at home but when a high profile, beloved summer tradition is hit, it is big news. So far, the cronut burger is the leading suspect. I would be snarky and say a deep fried 1750 calorie "snack" is going to make you sick even if it doesn't make you sick, but that would be too snarky. Oops.

Here are some ways to stay safe when you are eating out at food fairs, from hot dog stands or food trucks.

What to watch for:

Rare is never okay, especially with ground meat. It doesn't matter if the purveyor assures you that their meat was cut from the loins of the gods, it still needs to be cooked to kill (bacteria, not you).

Is there a sink and hand washing station? Is it being used?

If there is a bathroom that the staff is using, what's the state of it? If it is filthy, so is the kitchen.

  • Does your server handle food, then money, food, then money? Watch before you order! Move on if they do. And don't be fooled by gloves, they carry just as much danger if they aren't changed often.

  • Is the prep area spotless? It should be. Any food on the counter? It shouldn't be, it must be in bowls or containers to prevent cross contamination

  • Is the surface being "washed" with a dirty rag? Within an hour, a wet rag can contain billions of ways to make you sick.

  • One of the key reasons oysters are suspected so often has more to do with the cloth that is used to secure them during shucking and NOT the oyster itself.

  • Watch carefully for how the cooking utensils are used. I was in NYC ordering street meat and watched the raw chicken tongs get shoved into the fresh lettuce bin. Um, no thanks.

  • Watch the temperature of your food; when in doubt, throw it out. Lukewarm is not ok.

  • Don't eat garnish. For some reason, cooks skip the "wash the parsley for the plate" part of the regime. Something like 27 per cent of greens were found to contain ecoli, so they can be just as deadly as the meat.

Watch before ordering, walk away if you see any infractions. Speak up if you forgot and are already in line! You are saving your own tummy and those of your fellow linegoers; it isn't embarrassing, it is a public service.

You also want to make sure that you have a healthy gut overall. The good bacteria don't actually kill the offending bacteria but they do stand in line along your intestines and fight to move the illness through rather than have it absorbed.

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