Food safety is pretty high on everyone's list of "things to be aware of", especially in light of the food recalls and poisoning scares that seem to happen all too often. But believe it or not, the ones you hear about on the TV news aren't the most common — a good deal of food poisoning is caused by improper food handling in home kitchens.
Being aware of food safety in your own home — things like proper refrigeration and preventing cross-contamination — is the best way to keep food-borne illness at bay.
- Buy cold food last; get it home fast.
- Never choose packages that are torn or leaking.
- Don't buy foods past "sell-by" or expiration dates.
- Put raw meat and poultry into a plastic bag so meat juices won't cross–contaminate cooked foods or those eaten raw, such as vegetables or fruit.
- Place refrigerated or frozen items in the shopping cart last, right before heading for the checkout counter.
- When loading the car in warm weather, keep perishable items inside the air-conditioned car, not in the boot.
Safe Storage of Foods
- Keep it safe; refrigerate.
- Unload perishable foods from the car first and immediately refrigerate them. Place securely wrapped packages of raw meat, poultry, or fish in the meat drawer or coldest section of your refrigerator.
- Check the temperature of your refrigerator with an appliance thermometer. To slow bacterial growth, the refrigerator should be at 4°C and the freezer at -18°C.
- Cook or freeze fresh poultry, fish, ground meats, and variety meats within 2 days; other beef, veal, lamb, or pork, within 3 to 5 days.
Safe Foods Preparation
- Keep everything clean!
- Wash hands before and after handling raw meat and poultry.
- Sanitize cutting boards often in a solution of 1 teaspoon chlorine bleach in 1 quart of water. Wash kitchen towels and cloths often in hot water in washing machine.
- Don't cross–contaminate. Keep raw meat, poultry, fish, and their juices away from other food. After cutting raw meats, wash hands, cutting board, knife, and counter tops with hot soapy water.
- Marinate meat and poultry in a covered dish in the refrigerator.
Thaw Food Safely
- Refrigerator: Allows slow, safe thawing. Make sure thawing juices do not drip on other foods.
- Cold Water: For faster thawing, place food in a leak-proof plastic bag and submerge in cold tap water.
- Microwave: Cook meat and poultry immediately after microwave thawing.
- Use a food thermometer.
- Cook ground meats to 160°F.
- Cook ground poultry to 165°F.
- Beef, veal and lamb steaks, roasts, and chops may be cooked to 145°–170°F.
- Cook all cuts of fresh pork to 160°F.
- Poultry should reach 165°F.
- Cook shellfish until opaque.
- Cook fish until it flakes easily with fork.
- Cook eggs until firm.
Serving Food Safely
- Never leave food out over 2 hours. (1 hour in temperature above 32°C.) Bacteria that cause foodborne illness grow rapidly at room temperature.
- Keep hot food hot! Cold food cold!
- When serving food at a buffet, keep hot food over a heat source and keep cold food on ice. Keep platters of food refrigerated until time to serve or heat them.
- Carry perishable picnic foods in a cooler with a cold pack or ice. Set the cooler in the shade and open the lid as little as possible.
Handling Leftovers Safely
- Divide foods into shallow containers for rapid cooling. Put food directly in the refrigerator or freezer.
- Use cooked leftovers within 4 days.
Use By Dates
No food lasts forever, however well it is stored. Most pre-packed foods carry either a "use-by" or a "best before" date.
- "Use-by" dates appear on foods that go off quite quickly. It can be dangerous to eat foods past this date.
- "Best before" dates are for foods with a longer life. They show how long the food will be at its best quality.
Food may look and smell fine even after its use-by date, but that doesn't mean it's safe to eat. It could still be contaminated.
With more and more people re-using carrier bags, whether for environmental reasons or to avoid paying for new ones, the following tips will help prevent bacteria spreading to ready-to-eat food:
- Keep raw meat and fish separate from ready-to-eat foods in separate bags.
- If you use re-useable bags, keep one or two just for use with raw meat and fish and don't use the same bags for ready-to-eat foods.
- Re-useable bags (and single-use carrier bags) should be disposed of if there are spillages of raw meat juices.
Bisphenol A or BPA, is a chemical used to make plastics including materials that come into contact with food such as refillable drinks bottles and food storage containers. It's also used to make protective coatings and linings for food and drinks cans.
Lean more about BPA
Chilling food helps prevent harmful bacteria, such as salmonella and listeria, from multiplying to dangerous levels and causing food poisoning. It also slows the natural deterioration of fresh meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, helping them last days longer than they would at room temperature.
Learn more about Cold Storage
Safe Picnicking & Barbecuing
Picnics and barbecues can be lots of fun, however you can't be too careful when handling and packaging food for cooking and eating outdoors. Summer heat increases the chance of bacterial growth in foods, and bacteria are more likely to grow in foods that are high in protein and moisture — meats, poultry, seafood, dairy products and egg dishes.
Learn more about Safe Picnicking
Handling Meat & Poultry Safely
Many different types of bacteria can grow on animal products. It’s important to safely handle and store all types of meat. However, many people find it confusing that different types of meat have different handling rules.
Learn more about handling meat
Handling Fish and Shellfish Safely
Generally, seafood is very safe to eat, however seafood is more perishable then many food items, and the consumer must pay a little more attention to its careful handling. Raw or undercooked seafood can be unsafe due to viruses, bacteria or parasites.
Learn more about handling seafood safely
Serving Prepared Foods Safely
The chilled food industry in the UK is the most advanced in the world. There are over 12,000 different chilled prepared foods on the market including chilled prepared fruit and vegetables, salads, soups, sandwiches, pizzas, ready meals and desserts, chilled prepared foods, chilled prepared foods are ready to eat, ready to reheat or ready to cook.
Learn more about serving and preparing food safely