What Is Basic Food Safety?
Food safety and health go hand-in-hand. As per World Health Organisation (WHO), An estimated 600 million almost 1 in 10 people in the world fall ill after eating contaminated food and 420 000 die every year, resulting in the loss of 33 million healthy life years (DALYs).
In fact, US$110 billion is lost each year in productivity and medical expenses resulting from unsafe food in low- and middle-income countries, says WHO.
Therefore, it is important to ensure food safety along the entire food chain, right from food production to food processing and distribution. But, the task doesn't stop here.
WHO report suggests that a large proportion foodborne illness cases are caused due to improper food handling at home or restaurants , in food service joints and not during the supply chain.
So, next time after carefully sorting veggies and buying raw meat poultry in the supermarket, focus should be on hygienic food handling . It is essential to follow food safety practices all along the cooking and storing process.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has defined four steps to basic food safety . These areClean, separate, cook and chill.
Clean the veggies and fruits. Besides, also sanitise or wash your table tops , cutting boards , kitchen towels. Separate the vegetarian and non-vegetarian food like meat poultry to keep cross contamination at bay. Cook the foods to the ideal internal temperature and make sure the storage time in room temperature doesn't exceed 2 hours.
Avoiding common food safety mistakes
1. Tasting food to check if it is fit for consumption-
Sometimes, when the food is in refrigerator for two or more days, people taste it to see if it is still good. This is the most common and wrong method. In case the food has turned bad, it already contains bacteria and consuming this food can cause foodborne illness like food poisoning .
Ideal storage time for different food varies. Make sure not to consume food that had been in refrigerator for more than 3 days.
2. Using same dish that held raw meat for cooked foods -
Do not put cooked or ready to eat foods on a plate that earlier held raw meat poultry . Raw meat is more prone to pathogens like bacteria and it can easily spread to cooked food. The cross contamination can lead to food poisoning and foodborne illness .
3. Thawing food at room temperature -
Foodborne pathogens multiply in the temperature danger zone , i.e between 40F to 140F. When thawing food in this room temperature zone, its outer layer gets warm easily, providing a favorable environment for pathogens. Consuming this food can cause food poisoning .Therefore, always thaw frozen food in refrigerator or cold water.
4. Washing meat poultry -
Never wash raw meat poultry as it is more prone to bacteria. And the bacteria can easily spread to sink and other kitchen surface through running water.
Only wash fruits and vegetables.
5. Marinating food on kitchen top -
Like we said, temperature range between 40 to 140 F is a temperature danger zone. Keeping marinated food in this temperature range accelerates bacterial growth by twice. Always marinate food in the refrigerator.
Also, if you use the same marinade on other raw and cooked meat, it can lead to cross contamination and transfer the bacteria. So, in case you are reusing the marinade, give it a quick boil.
Cooking at home is a great way to save money and eat healthier. But if you don’t know the basics of food safety, you risk making your whole family sick.
The good news is that it’s easy to keep your family safe by following these basic rules.
Germs and bacteria
- Food is vulnerable to bacterial and viral attacks all along the supply chain, right from harvest to processing and distribution. Any negligence in food handling can easily pave way for the pathogens.
- A bacteria called Campylobacter is the major cause of foodborne illness in the United States
- It is mainly found in undercooked poultry and raw milk. Similarly, E-coli is found in unpasteurized milk, undercooked meat, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Thus, it is important to cook the raw meat poultry till it reaches the ideal internal temperature. It is suggested to wash vegetables and fruits thoroughly before consuming them.
- Listeria can grow at refrigeration temperature even and is mostly found in unpasteurized dairy and ready-to-eat foods.
- A resistant bacteria called Salmonella can enter chickens easily. Make sure to cook the chicken till it internal temperature reaches 165F for Food Safety
Improper storage of food
The CDC has advised to be careful regarding food storage times for Food Safety purpose, It says not to leave food at room temperature or the Danger Zone between 40F to 140F, as the bacteria multiples rapidly here.
Always keep refrigerator at 40F or below and freezer at 0F or below.
The CDC listed ideal storage times for different foods. For instance, refrigerated luncheon meat like raw meat poultry can be consumed within 1 to 2 days. While, raw meat poultry stored in freezer can be used within 1 to 2 months.
Use separate cutting boards and knives for raw meat poultry and veggies. Using an unwashed plate for salad that held raw meat earlier can lead to cross contamination , denting Food Safety .
Similarly, when out on grocery shopping, keep raw meat poultry separate from greens to avoid any chance of cross contamination.
Even in refrigerator, it is suggested to keep raw meat poultry away from vegetable and cooked food.
Foodborne illness is a serious and growing concern.
It’s not just the big food companies that need to worry about food safety.
What you need to know about food safety for the home cook
Start from the basic- Wash your hands before you start cooking or chopping. Washing hands properly can minimize the risk of foodborne illness and maximize Food Safety .
Keep the kitchen surface clean. Wash the kitchen towel and sponges with hot soapy water and then sun dry them, as they are one of the major sources of cross contamination .
Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly, especially greens like lettuce as it is more vulnerable to E-coli.
It is suggested to use separate cutting boards and tools for raw meat and greens.
Never thaw or marinate food at room temperature.
Cook food at proper internal temperature to ensure Food Safety . Cooking temperature may vary from food to food.
Food Safety is non-negotiable, yet foodborne illness is so common. Thus, it is important to exercise hygienic and safe food practice all along the food chain.
Refer to Health Department guidelines to ensure maximum food safety.
Always, follow the CDC's four steps to basic food safety-- clean, separate, cook and chill.
If you are a home cook, you know how difficult it can be to keep food safe.
There is so much information out there to take in, and it can be hard to know what information is accurate and what isn’t.