How to ensure food safety

Posted on 2015-02-05 07:40:13

You may be a wise shopper, read food labels before buying food products, and you are also an excellent cook. However, have you thought of the safety of the food as you prepare and cook it? Food safety is very important; proper methods of preparation, cooking and storage can help protect you and your family from effects of foodborne illnesses and infections caused by bacteria. Bacteria such as salmonella, listeria, and camphylobacter which thrive in poorly handled food can cause symptoms of nausea, vomiting, fever, diarrhea and dehydration. Food safety is a combination of safety precautions which include proper selection of foods in the market, proper storage, safe cooking and ultimately cleaning up after cooking. This is how you can ensure that both your kitchen and foods that you prepare in it are safe for consumption. The first step towards food safety is buying food that is safe. Make sure the food you buy is fresh and check the ‘sell by date’ to ensure the food is still safe for consumption. If you are buying refrigerated foods like sausages and meat, put it in the trolley last and separate it from other items. Consider putting refrigerated products in a cooler for freshness in case drive to your home is long. Do not buy meat or fish that has odd look or smell or eggs that have cracks. Also avoid fruits whose skin is broken as these can allow in bacteria which can contaminate the fruit. Wash all vegetables and fruits thoroughly under running water to remove any traces of dirt, chemical residues, or bacteria. Firm produce like melons and carrots can be scrubbed using a clean produce brush. Hands are among the leading ways by which germs are spread. It is thus important that you wash them thoroughly using soap and warm water before you start cooking, after handling raw food like poultry, and after using the toilet or touching the dust bin. Also avoid touching your skin while handling food as you can easily transfer microorganisms to the food. Designate different chopping boards for ready-to-eat foods like vegetables and raw foods like meat to avoid cross-contamination. Old chopping boards with cracks should not be used as such cracks may harbor harmful bacteria. Also use different utensils for cooking and serving uncooked poultry, meat or eggs. Dishes previously used to hold raw meat should not be used for cooked meat. When cooking, use the correct temperatures so that any harmful bacteria in the food can be destroyed. Any thawed meat or fish should be cooked immediately to prevent growth of bacteria. Different foods have different cooking times. Some types of food such as poultry, pork, and liver require thorough cooking prior consumption. For example, to test whether a piece of chicken is thoroughly cooked, cut in the middle and check that the juices are clear, it is no longer pink in color and there is steam coming out. In case of leftovers or you are not going to consume food right away after cooking, make sure to cool it thoroughly under room temperature and then store it in the refrigerator. Consume leftovers within two days and ensure to reheat them until they are steaming hot and do not reheat them more than one time. After you are done with cooking, wash chopping boards thoroughly as they can create conducive environment for breeding of bacteria if not carefully cleaned. Wash them separately from other utensils using hot soapy water. Then rinse thoroughly with plain water and leave it to air dry. Wipe the kitchen counters and other open surfaces using hot soapy water and occasionally disinfect kitchen sinks and drains by pouring either homemade or commercial cleaning solution to kill germs. Refrigeration tips: Some types of food like meat and dairies need refrigeration to prevent bacteria growth. Ensure the temperature of your fridge is at 5 degrees Celsius or less, store poultry and meat in separate plastic bags so that their juices do not leak to other foods in the fridge and do not store foods while hot as this can raise temperatures in the fridge hence encourage growth of bacteria. Clean the refrigerator on a regular basis to ensure that it stays hygienic; food particles build up over time and this can raise the risk of cross-contamination. Following the above simple safety precautions can greatly lower risks of food-borne infections and diseases in your family. Think safety! By Rebecca Muthoni