Food safety is all about handling, preparing and storing food in a way that will prevent any food-borne disease. Besides transmitting disease from person to person, food can also serve as a growth medium for harmful bacteria like E.Coli which can eventually lead to food poisoning. From causing diseases such as diarrhea to life-taking ones like cancer, unsafe food can be hazardous to mankind. If one does not pay much heed to food safety, it can also result in fever, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and dehydration. WHO estimates that food-borne and water-borne diarrhea alone results 2.2 million deaths annually, 1.9 million of them being children. Food-borne diseases and threat to food safety is a growing public health problem and an important cause of reduced economic productivity that needs to be tackled effectively. Food safety precautions should be maintained at every stage, right from selecting food in the grocery store to storing the food appropriately. Here are few food safety facts you must keep in mind to keep yourself and your family in good health.
Food Safety Facts
- Buying the right food is very important. Always check the expiry date of every product that you buy, especially when you buy packaged meat, poultry or fish. Even if the expiration date is acceptable, do not buy meat or fish which looks or smells strange. Do not buy pre-stuffed fresh turkey or chicken.
- Always put refrigerated or frozen items in your shopping cart at the end, just before you are about to head towards the check-out counter.
- Fruits with broken skin should never be bought, since bacteria can enter the fruit through the opening and contaminate the entire fruit. Even non pasteurized ciders or juices can contain harmful bacteria.
- Wash your hands, cutting board, dishes and other utensils with soap and preferably hot water, both before and after preparing food.
- Do not cross contaminate. Always remember to keep raw meat, poultry, fish and other juices away from other food. After cutting raw meat, wash your hands, cutting board, knife and the counter top with hot soapy water.
- Even while marinating meat or poultry in the refrigerator, always remember to cover the container.
- To minimize hazards caused due to pesticide residues, throw away the outer leaves of leafy vegetables such as cabbage or lettuce. Also peel and cook wherever possible.
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly under clean running water before use. This is vital to remove any dirt that might be on the outer skin. This would reduce any form of bacterial contamination to the inner flesh. However, do not wash fruits or vegetables with detergent.
- Do not leave soiled or damp wash clothes on your kitchen counter. Bacteria can easily grow on them, hence spreading infection.
- Try and use plastic or non-porous cutting board. Porous surfaces like wood can cause bacteria to seep into the surface and contaminate any food that comes in contact with it.
- While cooking meat, certain temperatures need to be adhered to. Ground meat should be cooked to 160o F, ground poultry to 165o F, beef, lamb steaks, roasts and chops to 145o F and fresh pork 160o F.
- Never leave cooked food out for over 2 hours or 1 hour if the temperature is above 90o F. Bacteria causing food-borne diseases rapidly grow in room temperature.
- Remember to keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Cold food should be kept in ice or refrigerated until ready to be served. Even food meant to be served hot should be heated first.
- Divide the leftover food in shallow containers to aid rapid cooling. Put the food directly into the refrigerator or freezer and use it within 4 days.