When it comes to food safety and hygiene, they don’t apply only to restaurants and fast food chains. They are all about food shopping, cooking and offering food on different occasions such as parties, picnics, and so on. If you want to avoid food poisoning, you have to follow some pretty simple rules in the kitchen and food hygiene tips.
Food Safety and Hygiene at Home
According to the Food Standards Agency, each year there are more than 500,000 cases of food poisoning from known pathogens in the UK alone. They are caused by different pathogens such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Clostridium. Other sources of food poisoning include poultry meat and produce. You might think that you’re safe if you eat only home-made food, but in reality you’re not. Some people don’t follow proper food safety and hygiene when they prepare their meals. If you want to stay safe and avoid the pains of food poisoning you have to follow “The Four Cs” of food safety and hygiene rules – cleaning, cooking, chilling and cross-contamination. Follow them and you could easily identify and avoid known sources of food poisoning.
Cleaning and Food Safety
Food preparation safety always includes cleanliness and cleaning. One of the rules of basic food safety guidelines is to keep everything clean. This applies to your hands too. They could be the home and vessel for thousands of germs. You can’t see them, but they are there and can easily spread onto your food and kitchen appliances you use to prepare meals for your loves ones.
It’s a basic personal hygiene habit to wash and dry your hands thoroughly:
- Before preparing food
- After touching raw food, especially meat
- After going to the toilet
- After petting animals
- After blowing your nose or taking meds
Basic rules of food hygiene also include cleaning your kitchen and appliances as well. Thoroughly clean worktops, chopping boards and utensils, especially after dealing with raw meat or eggs.
Change the dish cloths and towels on a regular basis. They are one of the dirtiest things in your kitchen, even if they look clean to you. You may not know it, but they are the perfect place for germs and bacteria to breed.
Cooking and Food Safety
The next “C” of the basic rules of food safety and hygiene is cooking. Salmonella, E. coli, and other germs, can cause severe food poisoning if the food isn’t thoroughly prepared.
You can easily kill these germs by cooking:
- Always cook at the right temperature, make sure you reach the safe minimum cooking temperature for each type of food
- Always follow the cooking instructions on the label
- Avoid reheating meals more than once
- Make sure that the center of the food is steaming hot
- Make sure your food is cooked all the way through when reheating it
When it comes to cooking, one of the basic food safety rules is to cook meat all the way through. If poultry, pork, burgers or sausages still have pink or red streaks, or the juices run red or pink, there’s a high chance germs are still lurking. However, some meats like steaks or joints of beef or lamb can be served rare. Just make sure that the outside has been properly cooked to avoid food poisoning.
The UK Food Standards Agency recommends to properly cook home-made burgers. Make sure there isn’t any pink meat and that the juices are clear. Remember that the internal cooking temperature should be 75 degrees C, this was harmful bacteria will be killed and you’d avoid food poisoning. Food safety and hygiene precautions always include thorough cooking of any meat at the right temperature.
Chilling and Food Safety
Germs and bacteria spread faster in warm conditions. When in tomes to food safety and hygiene, keeping foods cold stops harmful germs from growing. However, this doesn’t mean that all food goes in the refrigerator. Make sure that the food actually has a “keep refrigerated” tag on the label, as well as an expiration date. Your fridge can be a useful weapon to ward off germs, just make sure that it’s clean as well. Here are a few rules of thumb for food safety and kitchen hygiene you should remember:
- Store food at the right temperature – between 0°C and 5°C
- Don’t leave the door of the refrigerator open for too long
- Don’t put hot or warm food in the fridge – you risk spoiling the food and damaging your refrigerator
- Don’t leave leftovers in the fridge for more than two days – some germs can grow and spread even in cold temperatures
- Turn down the temperature of the fridge if it’s full – this will help keep food safe
Cross Contamination and Food Hygiene
One of the most common causes for food poisoning is cross contamination. It can occur when harmful germs and bacteria spread from one surface to another, or from one food to other. You can also spread germs with dirty hands and kitchen equipment. That’s why it’s important to follow the above mentioned Cs of food safety and hygiene and prepare food safely. Here are some food safety advice to remember that will help you avoid cross contamination and food poisoning, as well as prevent foodborne illnesses:
- Keep poultry, raw meat and uncooked and unwashed fruits and vegetables away from ready-to-eat food and
- Store raw meat separately from other food – keep it in a tightly sealed container at the bottom of your fridge to avoid dripping and cross contamination
- Never, ever use the same chopping board and knife for raw meat and other cooking products, as well as ready-to-eat food. It might be a hassle to clean, but this way you will avoid spreading harmful germs and bacteria.
- Don’t wash the meat before cooking. It won’t wash away all the bacteria and germs, you might even add more. You can only get rid of meat germs with proper cooking.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after you’ve touched raw meat and vegetables before touching anything else.
- Don’t forget to clean root vegetables such as potatoes, leeks, onions, and carrots from all traces of soil.
- Don’t prepare food for yourself or others if you’re sick.
If you follow the 4 Cs of food safety, you’ll be safe from food poisoning and turning a meal into a source of foodborne illnesses.
“Safe to Use” Dates
Another key food safety rule to follow is to always check the “use by date” and “best before date”. Here’s an explanation of the difference between the two:
- A “Use by” date is placed on foods and products that spoil quickly and it points that it’s safe to eat the food before this date. A “use by” date is about food safety of foods such as raw meat, dairy products, fish, sliced meats, packed ready-to-eat foods. You should not eat the food if the “use by” date has expired.
- A “Best before” is placed on a food to indicate that after the date expires the food will lose colour, texture, flavor, etc. It’s more about food quality rather than food safety and it doesn’t always mean that the food isn’t safe to eat after the “best before” date expires.