8 Ways to Ensure You Won’t Have Food Poisoning When Having Hotpot


We all know it, we all love it, and we all love eating it.

A steaming pot of aromatic broth bubbling away on a stove at the centre of your dining table. Arrayed around it are plates of thinly sliced meats, vibrant vegetables, succulent seafood, and an assortment of tantalising dipping sauces.

The air is filled with the sound of laughter and the fragrant aroma of spices mingling with savoury goodness. This, my friends, is the magic of hotpot – a communal dining experience like no other.

But amidst the joy and camaraderie of hotpot lies a lurking danger. You see, hotpot’s DIY nature, where each diner cooks their own food in a shared broth, can sometimes lead to undercooked ingredients and cross-contamination. 

Pesky pathogens like Salmonella, Listeria, Hepatitis E virus (HEV), and Campylobacter are just waiting to spoil the party, and with the recent case of a family of three being hospitalised after allegedly eating food from the restaurant Hai Di Lao, we figured it may be good if we remind you about some tips to stay safe while having hotpot with your family or friends.

Get to Know the Risks

Before we dive into the tips and tricks, it’s important to familiarize ourselves with who we could potentially be dealing with if we are not careful.

Salmonella: This sneaky little bacterium hangs out in the intestines and fecal matter of humans and animals. It loves to crash the party via raw or undercooked meat, poultry, and eggs, leading to symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever.

Listeria: Another uninvited guest, Listeria is a hardy bacterium that can survive in harsh conditions, including refrigerated or processed foods. It causes symptoms similar to Salmonella but with a fancier name, along with a touch of muscle aches and nausea.

Hepatitis E Virus (HEV): This virus hitches a ride on undercooked meat or organs from infected animals, causing inflammation of the liver. Symptoms range from jaundice, dark urine, vomiting, and abdominal pain to asymptomatic cases.

Campylobacter: Found predominantly in the intestines of chickens and other animals, and is transferred to the meat when an infected animal is slaughtered. Campylobacter can cause symptoms like diarrhoea, cramping, and abdominal pain. In severe cases, it can even lead to reactive arthritis and Guillain-Barré syndrome (a form of paralysis).

Now that we know our enemies, let’s learn how to eliminate them altogether, whether at home or at a restaurant.

Make Sure EVERYTHING is Clean

It sounds like a no-brainer, but even after a pandemic, sometimes people underestimate the importance of self and environmental cleanliness.

Wash your hands before handling food, prior to eating, after touching raw meat or seafood, and before handling ready-to-eat food. Use liquid soap and wash hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds. Regularly clean utensils and food contact surfaces. 

When washing vegetables, ensure they are thoroughly rinsed under running water. For shellfish and bivalves, scrub the outer shells to remove dirt and soak live bivalves like clams in water for half a day to reduce sand and microorganisms. Remove intestines and gonads from scallops to lower the risk of contamination.

When washing raw meat and poultry, be cautious of splashes and clean and disinfect the sink and surrounding areas afterward.

Store and Defrost your Ingredients Safely

Once you’ve brought your hotpot ingredients home, it’s crucial to store them properly. Keep frozen items in a freezer set at -18°C or below, while chilled products should be stored in the refrigerator’s chiller compartment at 4°C or below.


Avoid defrosting food at room temperature. Instead, thaw it properly, ideally in the refrigerator overnight, or using cold running water or a microwave.

If you need to defrost frozen items quickly, you can submerge sealed packages in room temperature water while changing the water frequently. Cook the food immediately after defrosting and avoid refreezing if you’ve used the latter two methods.

Some small frozen items, like dumplings and fish balls, can be boiled directly from a frozen state without defrosting.

Separate the Raw and Cooked Ingredients

In a hotpot feast, it’s common to have plates of raw and cooked ingredients placed together in close proximity for convenience.

However, this practice heightens the risk of pathogens from raw items contaminating cooked food, leading to cross-contamination.


To prevent this, use separate sets of chopsticks and utensils for handling raw and cooked items. This is probably the most tip that you should remember.

Additionally, limit the number of dishes on the table to reduce the chances of food-to-food cross-contamination. Don’t worry, you can always order more later.

Maintain a Safe Temperature in Your Hotpot

I know, sometimes you’re hungry and you simply can’t wait to dig in, but it is important to wait until the soup reaches a full boil before adding food, and to avoid overfilling the pot to ensure even cooking.

Larger food pieces should be cooked thoroughly to an internal temperature of at least 75°C. Oysters and shellfish require a higher internal temperature of 90°C for 90 seconds or boiling until their shells open.

Do not drink the broth or remove cooked ingredients for consumption when raw ingredients have just been added to the broth, and avoid putting too many ingredients into the hotpot as it would cause uneven heat distribution.

Handle Raw Eggs Safely

When dining at hotpot restaurants where raw eggs are offered as ingredients or ready-to-eat food, it’s crucial to inspect the eggs carefully. Any eggs with cracked shells should be discarded right away, as they’re more likely to be contaminated by harmful pathogens.


Additionally, it’s best to avoid consuming raw eggs, whether as a dip or in other dishes, due to the risk of Salmonella contamination. Opt for pasteurised shell eggs as a safer alternative.

Slice Fish and Meat into Thin Pieces

From pork belly to dory fish fillets, make sure to cut them up into smaller slices before adding them into the broth.

Doing to your protein ingredients will allow for more even and thorough cooking, and it would cook faster too!

Avoid Sharing Utensils with One Another

Sharing of eating utensils and food, including dipping sauces, with others during hotpot may facilitate the spread of bacteria and germs, through droplets of saliva present on them. 

The use of serving spoons is a recommended practice and a hygienic habit. Hence, consumers should use serving spoons when dishing out soup and ingredients from the hotpot.


Double-check Products Before Consumption

Always check for expiry dates on pre-packaged foods or soup bases. Consuming expired products can lead to foodborne illnesses, as the ingredients may have deteriorated and harmful bacteria may have grown, increasing the risk of contamination. 

Ensure that you purchase hotpot ingredients and soup bases from SFA-licensed food establishments because it ensures that the food has undergone proper inspection and meets safety standards set by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA).

Alternatively, you can dine at SFA-licensed establishments as they are regularly inspected to ensure compliance with hygiene and sanitation regulations, reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses. 

You can dine with peace of mind knowing that the food they are consuming has been sourced from reputable suppliers and prepared in a clean and safe environment.

So no, you probably don’t have to worry about a potential hospital trip the next time you eat at a hotpot restaurant, especially if you follow the guide to the tee. Stay safe and enjoy yourselves!