[dropcap]E[/dropcap]very year, millions of people are sent to the hospital because of food poisoning. The main reason for this is improper food handling or preparation. Food is vital to our health and nourishment but it can also be the cause of our illness. It’s important that everyone is well versed in how to properly handle food to prevent food poisoning. Below are the top 9 easy steps to ensure proper handling of food.
Food safety begins with how you store your food. Make sure that all your perishables are refrigerated within 2 hours of purchase. The ideal temperature should be no higher than 4.4 degrees Celsius. Fresh poultry, ground meat, fish such as Salmon, and other meat should be consumed within 2 days. For beef, lamb, or pork, it should be consumed within 3 to 5 days. In order to maintain the quality of meat and poultry when frozen, wrap it again in its original package with foil or plastic. Canned foods are considered safe for an indefinite period so long as they are not exposed to extreme temperatures.
When preparing food, always make sure you wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after food handling. Avoid cross-contamination which means try to keep poultry, fish like tuna and salmon, meat, and their juices from getting into other food. Wash cutting board, utensils, and countertops with hot soapy water after cutting raw meat. Also, utensils, cutting boards, and countertops should be sanitized using a mixture of 1 gallon of water and 1 tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach.
You can use the refrigerator to safely and slowly thaw frozen food, but make sure juices of raw meat and poultry don’t come into contact with other food. You can also use cold water to thaw frozen food faster by placing it inside a leak-proof plastic bag and submerging it in cold tap water. Cook right away after thawing. For microwave thawing, make sure you also cook the meat right after thawing.
All raw pork, beef, lamb, and veal steaks at a minimum internal temperature of 62.8 degrees Celsius. You can do this by using a food thermometer. For added safety, allow the meat to rest for 2 to 3 minutes before consuming it. Similarly, ground meats should be cooked at a minimum temperature of around 71.1 degrees Celsius, and poultry at 73.9 degrees Celsius.
When serving hot food, the temperature should be maintained at 60 degrees Celsius or warmer. Cold food, on the other hand, should be kept at 4.4 degrees Celsius or colder. When you are serving food buffet style, you can use chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays to keep food hot. To keep cold dishes cold, you can nest them in bowls of ice. Perishable food should never be left out for more than 2 hours at room temperature.
Food that’s left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours should be discarded. Otherwise, you can place food into shallow containers before immediately freezing or refrigerating them. Leftovers should be consumed within 4 days and if you want to reheat leftovers, the ideal temperature should not be below 73.9 degrees Celsius.
Poultry and meat that have been defrosted inside the refrigerator can be refrozen before or after cooking. If it has been thawed using other methods, you first have to cook the food before refreezing.
It’s recommended that you use disposable paper towels in the kitchen. If you are using a reusable towel to clean up, it should be washed frequently. Towels that are used in cleaning working surfaces or have been in contact with raw food should be washed immediately using warm soapy water. Scrubber sponges used to clean utensils should also be replaced frequently to prevent the build-up of bacteria.
- Other food safety tips
As much as you can, avoid eating raw eggs or eggs that have been cooked using mild heat (fried egg, soft boiled). You should also try to minimize preparing foods that don’t use high heat which include fresh eggs such as mayonnaise, ice cream, etc. Foods with fresh eggs that are not treated with heat treatment have the possibility of being contaminated with Salmonella bacteria that causes food poisoning.
There you have it! Some simple things to remember that’ll keep you safe from food poisoning and help make mealtime that much more enjoyable.
Lily Brooks is an avid blogger and an informative content writer who loves to write about travel, health, food, culture, and more. She is currently working with Jakers, the leading seafood restaurant in and around Idaho.