Food Safety for the Whole Family

Safe Kitchen

Food SafetyIn the topic of food safety, everyone needs to be aware. Each day millions of people become ill and thousands will die from a preventable foodborne disease. It is estimated that more than 200 diseases are spread through our food. The good news is that proper food handling can prevent most of these diseases. Those at greatest risk are pregnant women, small children, the elderly and immune compromised individuals.

Where we can begin is prevention. Food contamination can occur at any stage from farm to table, but a majority of foodborne illnesses are caused in the food preparation stages.

Below is a quick summary of the World Health Organization´s “Five Keys to the Prevention of Foodborne Illnesses”, with some additional highlights. Read to see how close you come to keeping a Food Safe Kitchen.

Keep Clean

  • Wash your hands before handling food and often during food preparation. Wash your hands after using the restroom.
    • For best results, wash for 20 seconds under running water with soap. Temperature of the water is less important than the length of time of scrubbing and the degree of friction created. Use a nailbrush to clean underneath your fingernails.
  • Wash and sanitize all surfaces and equipment used for food preparation.
  • Protect kitchen areas and food from insects, pests and other animals.
  • Use a fresh dish cloth daily. If you use sponges, microwaving for one minute on high will get rid of a significant portion of bacteria. Make sure the sponge is wet so it does not catch on fire. Also, do not microwave a sponge that has metal.Washing Hands
  • Clean the inside of your dishwasher, including the rubber seals regularly with a disinfectant or bleach solution. Black yeasts which are resistant to the high temperatures and detergents can grow there, and may cause a rare skin infection (mycetoma) or lung complications.
  • Whether you wash dishes by hand or in the dishwasher, it is important to rinse the leftover food particles off soon after eating. The longer dishes sit with food on them, the more chance there is for bacteria to grow, and the harder to clean thoroughly.

Separate Raw and Cooked

  • Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods.
  • Use separate equipment and utensils such as knives and cutting boards for handling raw foods.
    • Try having separate cutting boards, one for meat/fish products and the other for fresh fruits/vegetables. Clean thoroughly with soap and water. If the surface of a cutting board is so rough that you can still see left behind food particles after you´ve cleaned it, purchase a new cutting board.
  • Store food in containers to avoid contact between raw and prepared foods.

Cook Thoroughly

  • Cook food thoroughly, especially meat, poultry, eggs and seafood.
  • Bring foods like soups and stews to boiling to make sure that they have reached 70°C or 158°F. For meat and poultry, make sure that juices are clear, not pink. Ideally, use a thermometer.
  • Reheat cooked food thoroughly. Reheat solid leftovers to 74°C or 165°F and liquid leftovers to a rolling boil.  Throw out what you do not finish.

Keep Food at Safe Temperatures

  • Do not leave cooked food at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
  • Refrigerate promptly all cooked and perishable food (preferably below 5°C or 41°F).
    • Use a refrigerator thermometer to check. Best results of reading are received when thermometer is placed in the middle of a middle shelf.
  • Keep cooked food piping hot (more than 60°C or 140°F) prior to serving.
  • Do not store food too long even in the refrigerator. Up to four days in the refrigerator. If you want to store longer than four days, use the freezer.
  • Do not thaw frozen food (exceptions of breads, cakes and cookies) at room temperature.
    • Thaw in the refrigerator, allow 4 hours for every pound (450 g) of poultry and 9 hours for meat.
    • Thaw in running, cool water. Submerge food item in running water with a water flow strong enough to pass food particles into the overflow drain.
    • You may thaw in the microwave on defrost setting if food will be cooked immediately. Rotate often. Ensure whole product is thawed before cooking.

Use Safe Water and Raw Materials

  • Use safe water or treat it to make it safe.
  • Select fresh and wholesome foods.
  • Choose foods processed for safety, such as pasteurized milk.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables, especially if eaten raw.
  • Do not use food beyond its expiry date.

Use the following link for a handy poster:
World Health Organizations Five Keys to the Prevention of Foodborne Illnesses

World Health Organization
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Nutrition Action Health Letter “Safe at Home” (November 2011)