Although most conscientious cooks use common sense when preparing or storing food, there is still a great degree of learning involved when it comes to food safety.
Here are just a few pointers to refresh and reinforce your knowledge of food safety when it comes to preparing and storing food to protect your family from dangerous food poisoning bugs.
The Shopping Trip
Food safety actually starts with your excursion to the supermarket. Pick up the packaged or canned foods. Do the cans have dents? Don’t buy them. Is the jar cracked? Leave it. Does the lid seem loose or bulging? Pick up another. Look for any expiration dates on the labels – they are there for a reason. Never buy outdated food. Check the “use by” or “best before” date on dairy products and pick the ones that will stay fresh the longest.
After grocery shopping, put food into the refrigerator or freezer right away. Make sure to set the refrigerator temperature is set to somewhere between 1.7 to 3.3 degrees Celsius and the freezer is set below –18 degrees Celsius.
Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared foods, and leftovers within two hours. Raw meat, poultry, and seafood should be placed in containers to prevent their juices from dripping on other foods. Raw juices could possibly harbour harmful bacteria. Eggs should always be stored in the refrigerator and cracked into a separate bowl to test for freshness before being used in cooking.
Always cook food thoroughly until it is done. Red meat should turn brown inside. Chicken, when poked with a fork, should have clear juices. Fish, on the other hand, when poked with a fork, should flake. Cooked egg whites and yolks should be firm and not run. Be sure to use a food thermometer to check the internal temperatures of your poultry, meat, and other foods. Leave it in long enough to ensure an accurate reading.
Wash your hands and cooking surfaces frequently. Bacteria can be spread quickly so this will ensure that it will not take hold and grow onto your food. A solution of one teaspoon of bleach in one quart of water is all that is needed to sanitise washed surfaces and utensils. Replace sponges frequently and use fresh, clean tea towels.
Cooked foods should definitely not be left standing in the kitchen counter or table for more than two hours. Bacteria tends to grow in temperatures between 4 and 60 degrees Celsius. Remember to chill leftover foods promptly. Place the food in the refrigerator and do not overfill. The cold air needs to circulate freely to keep food safe. Divide the food and place in shallow containers. Consider labelling the containers so you don’t lose track of their age.
Foods that have been cooked ahead and cooled should be reheated to at least 75 degrees Celsius. (This just so happens to be one of the most overlooked areas in food preparation and safety).
These are just a few guidelines that you probably already practice, but refreshing your knowledge of food safety can prevent disasters in the kitchen.