Whether we are having home-cooked meals or eating out, food safety rules should always be observed.
If you do a Google search about food poisoning cases in Malaysia, you will find an alarming number of cases that involved school children. Young children are very susceptible to food-borne sicknesses when food handlers do not follow food safety guidelines.
While we could not control how restaurant workers handle food preparation and its hygiene level, we could follow food safety tips when we prepare meals for our children at home.
Adhering to food safety rules will help prevent food poisoning, stomachache, vomiting, diarrhea and other more serious conditions that may affect vulnerable people such as young children, the elderlies, and those with compromised immune system.
THERE ARE 10 BASIC FOOD SAFETY TIPS THAT WE WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH YOU. IN THIS ARTICLE, WE WILL DISCUSS THE FIRST FIVE TIPS.
Proper hand washing does not mean a quick rinse under water for a few seconds.
Our hands are full of bacteria we pick up as we go about our daily routine—this is a known fact—so it is important to wash our hands:
Before starting to prepare food
After handling uncooked meat, chicken, fish
After using the toilet
After sneezing or coughing
Re-contamination by bacteria may happen when hands that have just handled raw food are also handling fresh vegetables and cooked food without washing or washing without soap or using a dirty towel to dry washed hands.
What is proper hand washing? Use soap/hand-wash cleanser and wash thoroughly between each finger for at least 20 seconds under running water.
Read about the 5 steps for proper hand washing.
Cross-contamination is more commonly caused by bacteria from a raw/uncooked product such as meat, chicken and fish; even eggs.
Deadly bacteria include Salmonella, E.coli, Listeria, Staphylococcus, Clostridium.
One important way to reduce this risk is to always use different knives and cutting boards. Label them clearly so that other family members know which knife and board to use appropriately.
Clean and sanitize cutting boards, knives and kitchen counter-top in between handling uncooked and cooked/ready-to-eat foods (including vegetables).
NEVER mix them up thinking that it is not a big deal. It is a big deal! And, back to point 1 above, always wash your hands!
Did you know we should not thaw raw meat/chicken/fish on the countertop at room temperature?
You might say, but my grandma did that! Sorry to say, but this die-hard habit is actually a true cause for concern.
In ideal conditions (room temperature, moisture, food supply), bacteria double their numbers every 20 minutes.
In just 3 hours, 100 bacteria will multiply to over 50,000 bacteria.
See this table about how bacteria multiply on meat over 3 hours.
There are three ways to properly thaw frozen meat:
Place it in the fridge the night before
Defrost in the microwave (choose the defrost setting)
Place it in a Ziploc bag, soak/submerge in cold water and change the water every 20-30 minutes
Same as point 3 above—do not leave raw food including marinated meats in salt or sauces on the counter-top at room temperature.
Remember, bacteria breeds rapidly especially at room temperature.
The proper way is to store marinated meat in a leak-proof container in the fridge while waiting to cook it.
When a meal is done, store leftovers in the fridge as soon as possible.
Perishable foods should not be left for more than 2 hours at room temperature. On very hot days, the cut-off time is about 1 hour. Cue: bacteria growth!
Kids will not be able to distinguish between foods that are still edible or have gone bad. They might get food poisoning if they eat spoiled food!
We’ve discussed about the first five basic food safety tips in our article two weeks ago. Here’s a recap of the five important tips:
1. Always wash your hands
2. Use different knives and cutting boards
3. Thaw frozen food in the fridge, microwave or cold water
4. Store marinated meat in the fridge
5. Avoid eating leftovers after 2 hours
Now, let us move on with the next five basic food safety tips that we should all adhere to while we’re preparing food to prevent food poisoning, stomachache, vomiting, diarrhea and other more serious conditions from happening.
We might forget what type of food we’ve stored in the fridge and how long have they been in there. So go ahead and get your fridge checked out. You might find some that are well past their expiration date. For those that don’t have a specific expiry date, you might be wondering when should they be thrown away.
According to an article on FoodNetwork, the fridge can extend the shelf life of food temporarily. However, they can definitely spoil within a specific time frame.
For peace of mind, when you’re ever in doubt, toss the food out.
Read about how long will the food in your refrigerator last.
Always place raw meats on a tray or inside a leak-proof storage container before storing them in the fridge to avoid juices from dripping or leaking onto ready-to-eat food items. Then, place the meat container in the meat compartment or in the coldest part of the fridge.
Wrap up excess raw meats using plastic freezer bags and store in the freezer if you’re not cooking them within a day or two.
Always separate raw produces (fruits and vegetables) from cooked/ready-to-eat foods in the fridge.
If you’re storing leftovers, remember to keep them in leak-proof containers as well.
All the above steps are necessary to avoid cross-contamination that will introduce harmful bacteria.
Always cook all meats to the suggested internal temperature to eliminate any harmful bacteria. Use a meat thermometer to ensure proper temperature(s) are achieved during cooking.
For more information about recommended temperatures, see this guide by MeatSafety.org.
When grilling meats, always use separate plates and grill tongs when you’re handling both fresh and cooked meats.
According to FDA.gov, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that unpasteurized milk is 150 times more likely to cause foodborne illness.
Raw, unpasteurized milk from cows, sheep, or goats carry dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria, which are responsible for causing numerous foodborne illnesses and can be especially dangerous to people with weakened immune systems, older adults, pregnant women, and children.
Always read the label. Safe-to-drink milk will have the word “pasteurized” on the label.
Fresh eggs, even those with clean, uncracked shells, may contain the Salmonella bacteria that can cause food poisoning so it’s important to cook eggs thoroughly until both yolk and white are firm.
Here’s an important FDA guideline regarding eggs: To prevent illness from bacteria: keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly.
If you need to cook recipes that use raw or undercooked eggs, use pasteurized eggs. You can find them easily at the eggs section in major hypermarkets.
We hope these tips will help you in your food preparation every day!
In collaboration with Ethissa
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