In addition to improving general safety within the home and making the boundaries more secure, perhaps the main area where you can safe guard your family is by making sure that the food they eat is always safe. How you shop for, store and handle food can have far reaching effects. An understanding of how germs breed and travel underpins the safe kitchen and strict hygiene is essential to safe guard you and your family from the risk of food poisoning.
Shopping for chilled food
The colder you keep chilled and frozen food between buying it and storing it at home, the safer it is. This is because if the food warms up while you are taking it home, bacteria could grow and multiply. To avoid this, keep chilled foods together in the shopping trolley (cart), then pack them together, preferably in a cool bag, making sure that you wrap separately anything that is likely to drip. At home, transfer chilled or frozen food to the refrigerator or freezer immediately. Leaving chilled food in a shopping bag or car for any length of time can raise the temperature sufficiently to allow bacteria to thrive.
CHECKING FOOD LABELS
It is becoming increasingly difficult to guarantee that the food we eat really is what we think it is. With so many additives, genetically-modified and substitute foods, it is now wise to carefully read ingredient labels to check what is in any packaged food. For those wishing to control their intake of certain ingredients such as salt, sugar or far, this is the only way to be sure. It is also essential if anyone in the family suffers from an allergic reaction to any food.
Keep your hands and all equipment scrupulously clean. Never use a knife with which you have cut raw meat or fish to cut anything else without first washing it thoroughly. Get into the habit of scrubbing chopping boards and worktops (counters) between uses; keep separate boards for chopping raw meat and vegetables or cooked meat. Always store cooked food or any salad items separately from raw food such as meat or fish. Disinfect all work surfaces and the sink regularly, and especially all cloths used for washing up and/or wiping down surfaces, as these can transfer germs readily. Never wipe your hands on towels used for drying utensils.
You need to keep your refrigerator at the right temperature, because if it is not cold enough, harmful bacteria can grow and may cause food poisoning, which can be anything from a stomach upset to serious illness.
Store the most perishable food in the coldest part of the refrigerator; these are pre-cooked chilled foods, soft cheeses, cooked meats, prepared salads (including pre-washed greens as well as potato salads etcetera.), desserts, cream or custard-filled cakes, home-prepared food and leftovers. Foods that are best kept cool to help them stay fresher longer can be stored in the cool cones (which often include special compartments); milk, yogurt, fruit juices, hard cheeses, opened jars and bottles, fats such as butter, margarine, lard and low-fin spreads, and eggs fall into this category. The salad crisper is the warmest part of the refrigerator; it is designed for storing whole vegetables, fruit and fresh salad items such as unwashed whole lettuce, tomatoes, radishes etcetera. Try to keep raw meat and fish on the bottom shelf in case they drip. Prevent them from touching other foods by storing them in containers for added safety.
Do not keep food for too long and always observe use by dates. Once opened, canned food can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours.
To get the coldest part of the refrigerator to run between 0 5°C/32-41°F, put a thermometer in the coldest part (see the manufacturer’s instructions to locate this) where you can read it as soon as you open the door. Do not use a mercury thermometer as this could break and contaminate food. Close the door and leave for several hours, preferably over night. Open the door and read the thermometer without touching it, if it is not between 0-5°C/32 41°F, adjust the thermostat dial and leave as before. If the temperature is still not right after several hours, try again.
- Keep the coldest part of the refrigerator around 0-5Celcius/32-41Fereheit. Keep a thermometer in the coldest part and check the temperature regularly.
- Keep the most perishable foods, such as meat, in the coldest part of the refrigerator.
- Wrap and cover all raw and uncooked foods, to prevent them from touching other foods. Return perishable foods, such as butter, to the refrigerator as soon as possible after use.
- Don’t overload the refrigerator as this can block the circulation of the cooling air.
- Don’t put hot Baal into the refrigerator; let it cool first, because hot food could heat up other foods and bacteria breed in warm temperatures.
- Don’t keep food beyond its ‘use by’ or ‘best before’ date.
Avoiding cross contamination; bacteria will readily cross from one food to another, especially from raw meat to cooked or processed foods. The prevention of cross contamination is paramount for anyone in charge of preparing food for others.
High temperatures kill most bacteria, so always make sure that raw food, especially meat, is cooked right through. The temperature at the centre should reach 7000/158°F or at least two minutes. Large meat joints need care to make sure that the centre is well cooked; a meat thermometer can help. Microwave cookers do not always heat food to the high temperatures that kill food poisoning bacteria, so when using them make sure that the food is piping hot at the centre before serving. If frozen meat, poultry or fish is not completely thawed, the centre may not be properly cooked. The best way to thaw food is either in a microwave or refrigerator.
Raw eggs sometimes contain bacteria which are destroyed by cooking. Current advice is that you should avoid recipes using uncooked eggs.
When reheating food, always heat until it is piping hot all the way through. Never reheat food more than once. When using a microwave for reheating check the instructions regarding standing times to allow the heat to reach all parts of the food.
Insects, especially flies and cockroaches can transfer germs on to food so it is essential to keep them out of the kitchen. Insect repellents may contain poisons that are also harmful to you, so try to use herbal repellents. Metal gauze screens across open windows will provide a physical barrier, or you may prefer to try a crayon type of repellent that is applied around all openings. Always cover Bread that is left out for any length of time, with a purpose made cover of fabric mesh or a sieve, or use greaseproof (waxed) paper or foil.
HYGIENE AROUND THE KITCHEN
- Wash your hands in warm water with soap before: touching food, as well as after touching food; after touching pets; dirty washing (laundry); the dustbin (trash can); after going to the lavatory.
- Cover cuts and grazes.
- Wipe hands on a separate kitchen towel, not the tea towel (dish towel).
- Bleach, disinfect or change kitchen cloths or sponges often, especially after raw meat, poultry or fish has been prepared.
- Wipe the tops of all cans before opening them.
- Wash dishes, work tops (counters) and cutlery with hot water and detergent. Rinse washing up and let it drip dry if possible.
- Keep pets away from food, dishes and worktops.
- Keep food covered. Open packs or spilt food can attract flies, ants and mice, which spread bacteria. Clear up spilt food straight away.
- Avoid using the same knife or chopping board for raw meat, cooked food and fresh vegetables. If you have to use the same knife or board, always wash it thoroughly between uses.