While you'll probably never be 100% perfect at protecting yourself and your family against potential foodborne illnesses (from bacteria like salmonella or e coli), there are a few really simple and effective steps you can take to minimise the risk.

These are things I learned in culinary school and through working in professional kitchens. Because we have so much food coming in and out of restaurants, these sanitation and health and safety systems are well used by the industry.

Aside from regular on-the-job training, chefs also frequently update their training in these areas. When I was in culinary school, we were told that "Chefs take their diners' lives into their hands every day, and it's their responsibility to ensure their safety and enjoyment when it comes to food and hospitality."

I took all of those lessons to heart. Here are a few of the things I do at home, and when handling food professionally:

1 First in, first out: when you restock your fridge or pantry, place newer products (like milk, yogurt or cheese) at the back of the fridge and older stock in the front. That way, the older food is used first; minimising potential food waste and risk of foodborne illness from accidentally eating out of date food.

2 Don't overcrowd: if your fridge is over-crowded, it runs the risk of heating up. Your fridge should never be warmer than 4°C. Most newer models have a temperature gauge included, and for older fridges, you can buy a thermometer online (manual ones cost around €5, while digital models are around €25). Also, your freezer temperature should be at -18°C. Buy a freezer thermometer while you're at it.

3 Buy a probe thermometer: for approximately €10, you can achieve peace of mind without cooking your meat into oblivion. When cooked appropriately, the inside of a piece of meat should be 75°C. Stick the probe into the thickest part (if you're roasting a chicken, probe the breast and then the inside of the thigh).

4 Remember the temperature danger zone: food sitting at room temperature for too long can be just as dangerous as foods which are under-cooked. Bacteria grows on food at an exponential rate when at room temperature (bacteria is just like humans – it just needs warmth, moisture and food to grow). It is recommended that cooked food should be not at room temperature longer than 1.5 hours. To put the danger zone in context, it's anything from 5°C to 63°C. If you are keeping food warm, it should be at a temperature of above 63°C.

5 Cross contamination: this can happen in so many different ways. It happens when bacteria gets unknowingly transferred from one surface to another. Maybe someone used your kitchen dishcloth to clean up some raw chicken. Then you took the same cloth and wiped down your countertops. You just transferred bacteria to a clean surface and you didn't even realise!

I wash kitchen cloths after a day or after I clean something like chicken drippings or raw egg. I store raw meat on the bottom shelf of the fridge and prepared foods on top – that way the raw meat can't drip onto anything. I have separate chopping boards for cooked meat, raw meat, breads and vegetables. I use a dishwasher for whichever dishes I can, and wash everything else in hot, soapy water.

6 Read labels and use your senses: is that chicken still in date but smells a bit off? Do those sausages look a bit grey? Sometimes, your eyes and your nose are your best defense against potential foodborne illness. If meat or dairy look ok but are past their use-by date, it's still not a good idea to eat them.

I hate wasting food, but I have also seen what a dose of salmonella poisoning can do - and, while not usually life threatening, it's also not worth the risk. This is coming from a girl who has happily eaten raw, still squirming octopus.

If you want to learn more about safe food handling, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland have lots of good advice on their website.

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