General Hygiene and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease is a diarrhoeal illness therefore you should avoid practices which may cause infections and make the condition worse. The most common way to get a bowel infection is from contaminated food. Some general points to remember when preparing, cooking and storing food include: 

  1. Food Preparation
    • Before preparing food, always wash hands – especially after visiting the toilet. Also ensure that nails are clean.
    • Ensure that all surfaces are cleaned before preparing food on them.
    • Do not prepare salads or cooked meats on the same surface as raw meats or use the same utensils for chopping these items without washing them between use. This may cause contamination by bacteria which would normally be destroyed on cooking.
    • Always wash salads, fruits and vegetables before eating.
    • Keep animals away whilst preparing food, and wash your hands after playing with your pets.
  2. Cooking Foods
    • Make sure food is completely defrosted before cooking. Bacteria can produce spores (tough protective cases) when in unfavourable conditions, i.e. freezing, and can start to multiply again as conditions become warmer. Food which is apparently cooked on the outside may still be heavily contaminated with bacteria on the inside as cooking temperatures have been insufficient to destroy them.
    • Ensure foods such as meat and poultry are cooked thoroughly.
    • Do not re-heat food more than once after cooking. Continual cooking and warming allow ideal conditions for bacterial growth
  3. Food Storage
    • Always cover foods that are left on work surfaces to protect from flies, other insects or cross-contamination from other foods.
    • Do not store cooked and uncooked meats together. Cooked meats should always be kept at the top of the refrigerator and uncooked at the bottom.
    • Ensure that the refrigerator and freezer are in good working order and temperatures are correct. (Refrigerator should not be above 4°C).
    • Do not re-freeze defrosted or partially defrosted food.
    • When cooking and freezing, ensure food is cooled beforehand. Hot food may begin to defrost other food in the freezer.
    • Do not keep foods longer than safely recommended.

Other general points to remember:

  • Do not eat foods which appear to be ‘blown out’ or from dented tins, yoghurt cartons etc. This could indicate bacterial contamination.
  • Do not eat foods which look, taste or smell unusual.
  • Do not eat out of date foods.

Unfortunately stomach upsets do happen occasionally when eating out and it is generally prudent to know the history of the restaurant. If somebody in the family has a gastrointestinal upset, be extra-vigilant in preventing its spread to yourself:

  • Encourage fastidious hand washing.
  • Use very high temperatures for washing dishes, (dishwashers are excellent but are not always practical due to cost or available space).
  • Regular cleaning and disinfection of the toilet, especially following use. provides general information only and should not be regarded as a substitute for medical advice from your own doctor or healthcare provider.
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