Food Safety in the Home
GEMMA COLLINS DOYLE
One of the positive aspects of COVID 19 is that many of us have found a love of cooking or baking. Suddenly, we have more time to experiment and try out new recipes. For the most part, take aways have been closed and our favourite restaurants shut up shop when the lock down began. All this cooking and baking has led to a shortage of flour in the supermarkets and millions of people watching well known chefs on YouTube to get some new ideas. Even the kids want to be involved and have learned some amazing life skills at the same time.
While all of the above is great, there is an important factor we must consider when baking and cooking from home and that is Food Safety. Let us delve a little deeper and make sure that you are keeping your family safe from any unwanted illnesses that may come from poor food hygiene.
Its important to note this first – according to the Safefood website, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging. Think of your home kitchen as a mini restaurant, you would expect the place you order or eat from to be of the highest standard, aim for the same in your own home.
Food Hygiene starts with your hygiene!
With what we have had to endure over the last few months, I don’t think any of us can say we don’t know how to wash our hands correctly! I think we all underestimated the power of plain hot water and soap! Who knew it could be deadly killer to a virus that is rampant all over the globe? So, let’s start there, before you cook or touch any food, get those paws nice and clean, you know how by now.
Food safety can be broken down into the 4 C’s:
- Cross contamination
This usually happened when raw foods are handled together. When this happens, it causes the bacteria to multiply and this can then spread around the kitchen areas.
Cross contamination can be prevented by separating raw meat, poultry, and seafood from other foods when you are shopping and when you are storing food. Using different chopping boards for each type of food can also help prevent contamination.
Remember to wash your hands in between handling different types of food. Washing utensils, dishes and chopping boards in hot soapy water will also help prevent cross contamination. Do not forget to thoroughly wash any plates or bowls that you used.
Take care also when storing raw food in the fridge. Juices can leak and fall onto other foods and contaminate and spread bacteria. When storing these food items in the fridge then make sure to use sealed containers.
So, we already covered the hand washing (Happy Birthday twice, remember?!)
After the hands are nice and clean, its time to look around your workspace in the kitchen. Have you cleaned it down yet? Many people forget to do this before preparing food. Just because you can’t see the bacteria and germs or smell them, it doesn’t mean they are not there.
Rinsing fruit and vegetables with tap water will remove any surface dirt where bacteria can thrive. Cleaning your fridge once a week will also ensure that you minimise the spread of germs and bacteria around the kitchen area and onto food.
Have you thought about your dish cloths? They are the perfect place for lots of nasties to grow. Wash them every two days and remember, if it smells, it’s time to wash it!
The fun part!
Making sure your food is cooked correctly and at the right temperature for the correct amount of time is going to ensure that you maintain a high level of food hygiene in your home. It’s not always possible to tell if food is cooked properly by just looking at the colour. You may want to invest in a food thermometer.
When reheating food, it should be brought to a temperature of 74°C degrees or 165°F. Take care when microwaving foods, sometimes heat unevenly, which creates hot and cold spots in the food. The cold areas are where the bacteria can survive, which may lead to food borne illnesses to develop and no one wants that!
Many types of food are safer stored in a fridge, the reason is that at room temperature pathogenic bacteria can double in quantity every thirty to forty minutes. Which increases the probability of you or your family developing an illness. Keep your fridge at 4°C or 40°F at all times.
Do not thaw your food at room temperature, defrost in the fridge instead.
Take care not to over pack the fridge and decide on what food goes where. If you have leftovers from a meal, get them into the fridge within two hours.
Remember, if in doubt, then throw it out!
Think of your home kitchen as a mini restaurant, you would expect the place you order or eat from to be of the highest standard, aim for the same in your own home.
To find out more or get advice on food safety or anything else health and safety related, please check our EHS learning platform. If you’re interested in online Food Safety training for your staff, check out our elearning course here.
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