Here's tried-and-tested advice on how to handle food safely and avoid food poisoning in the kitchen. The risk of food poisoning is eliminated almost entirely if food is correctly handled and cooked - and stored properly. Here's how ...
Food poisoning can be caused by:
- preparing food without washing hands properly beforehand
- someone who is sick preparing food for others to eat
- forgetting to wash hands before eating
- eating food that is not cooked thoroughly
- allowing food to be at a temperature that allows bacteria to grow well. Keep food cold enough (fridge or freezer) or hot enough (steaming hot) and you'll stop bacteria from growing.
- cross contamination in the kitchen. Raw meat is nearly always contaminated with bacteria which can be transferred to hands or items such as chopping boards. Thorough cleaning of chopping boards with detergent is required after each use to prevent other foods becoming contaminated.
1. Control temperature
- Keep food out of the 'Temperature Danger Zone' between 4°C and 60°C. This is the ‘warm' temperature that bacteria love to grow and multiply.
- Keep hot food hot at 60°C or above.
- If the food is not to be eaten immediately after cooking, it should be cooled in the refrigerator to below 4°C.
- Place hot food directly in the refrigerator to cool. You may be reluctant to do this but modern refrigerators can cope with the load. Provided the dish is covered, you will not frost up the refrigerator.
- Divide large amounts into smaller portions in shallow dishes to increase the rate of cooling.
- Serve food to be eaten cold direct from the refrigerator. This applies particularly to seafoods, meat and vegetable salads, rice salads, desserts and cakes containing cream or imitation cream.
2. Avoid cross-contamination
- Cooked meats eaten cold are a common cause of food poisoning because organisms have been transferred back to the cooked product via knives, cooking boards and hands contaminated by fresh meat.
- To avoid transferring bacteria from the raw to the cooked meat, never handle cooked and uncooked meats together.
- Do not cut up raw and cooked foods with the same utensils or use the same boards without thoroughly washing the board and the utensils, and, of course, your hands!
- Avoid excessive handling of food because bacteria are always on our bodies. Although `fingers were made before forks', suitable utensils should be used to serve food.
3. Take care when storing and reheating
Reheating should ensure that the centre of the food reaches 75°C.
Thoroughly re-heat fried and barbecued meats, particularly chicken bought from take-away food shops. If this type of food is not to be eaten straight away, it should be kept either below 4°C or above 60°C, to avoid growth of any harmful bacteria.
One final point:
Always wash your hands before preparing or eating food. Those kitchen rules haven't changed!