Food Sick? Food Safe!
Apparently on Monday I had a case of either Norwalk or a foodborne illness… either way, the health inspector narrowed it down to where I had eaten out on Saturday. Both can be spread from person to food, one food to another food, or from food to person. The inspector reminded me that 90% of illnesses from bacteria or viruses actually occur in the home. I felt it necessary to touch on food safety and hygiene basics to remind us all about the importance of protecting ourselves and others from unnecessary (potentially life-threatening), and at the very least highly inconveniencing, illnesses.
1) Separate. When buying or storing groceries, always ensure your raw meat/fish/poultry is separate from your fresh foods. Raw foods in the fridge should be stored on a plate and on the bottom shelf. When prepping raw roods and fresh foods, use a different knife and cutting board for each.
2) Clean. Always wash your hands with warm soapy water before preparing food or after handling raw meat, poultry, eggs and seafood and after using the bathroom. Scrub your nails, palms, wrists and between your fingers for about 20 seconds. Hand sanitizer will kill germs but it does not remove debris, thus it is not as effective as proper hand-washing. Your food prep area should also be washed down with warm, soapy water. And yes, those dingy dish cloths should be replaced almost daily. Cutting boards and knives that have been used to cut raw foods should be washed in hot soapy, bleach water.
3) Cook. Food is safely cooked when it reaches a temperature high enough to kill bacteria. The danger zone temperature is between 4 degrees C and 60 degrees C… this is the ideal temp for bacteria to multiply rapidly. Ensure food is cooked and held hot above 60 degrees (check a temperature chart for poultry, ground meats, etc. as these often require temps much higher than 60 to kill bacteria).
4) Chill. Always cool food as rapidly as possible. If you have leftovers, divide it into smaller containers and place in the fridge/freezer within an hour of cooking. Again, this is to avoid the danger zone. Your fridge should be cooler than 4 degrees C. When is comes to thawing frozen food (especially meat), your best method is to take the item out early and let thaw in the fridge. Next best methods are to thaw under cool, running water or on defrost in the microwave. Cook immediately after thawing.
For more on food safety visit: http://www.canfightbac.org/en/