Food safety is a major issue that is often overlooked in many New Zealand households. In this country each year, thousands of cases of food poisoning are reported, and probably just as many go unreported.
Food poisoning is usually a result of poor hygiene in the kitchen hygiene, incorrect food storage, handling and preparation, or inadequate cooking.
Here are some suggestions for when purchasing, handling and storing food:
Optimise your fridge
Many people expect the fridge to perform miracles. Just packing food in any condition, any way into the fridge does not necessarily make it safe to eat. An overloaded fridge, full of uncovered, unprotected raw and cooked foods can mean harmful bacteria poised to pounce, a food poisoning attack waiting to happen. Click here to read more>,
Use containers with lids
Have a supply of suitable clean plastic containers with lids for fridge storage of other foods and left-overs. Always cover bowls of food with plastic wrap or foil.
Keep fruits and vegetables in plastic bags in the lower vegetable drawer to prevent dehydration. Even those with thick protective skins like tomatoes and ripe avocados keep fresher, longer in bags.
Cutting board rules
- Wash and dry your hands before you begin food preparation and always before and after handling raw meat and poultry.
- Thoroughly wash and dry cutting boards, knives, tongs and other utensils before and after preparing raw meat and poultry. Never carve your cooked roast or barbecued meats on the board and with the knife just used for cutting raw meat
- Rinse and scrub cutting boards in cold water, then wash in hot water and detergent. Don’t leave wooden boards soaking in water.
- Use chlorine bleach to whiten and sanitize plastic boards. Poly boards can go in the dish washer but not wooden ones which will warp and be damaged.
- Stand and store boards in a clean, airy place so they are kept dry and clean.
- Ideally have several cutting boards. It is wise to keep separate boards for preparing raw and cooked foods, and with several you don’t have to keep washing between jobs.
Preventing cross contamination when preparing food
Always wash your hands before and after handling food, especially when touching raw meat and poultry. It is best to use one board for preparing raw meat and poultry and one for other foods. Wash boards, knives and utensils before and after handling raw flesh foods.
The safest place to defrost food is in the refrigerator. Make sure food is completely thawed before you cook it. Larger cuts of meat, such as a leg of lamb, will take a day or more at the bottom of the refrigerator to defrost.
Cooking and reheating food
Cook meat and poultry until piping hot. Poultry must be cooked all the way through. A good way to check this is to pierce the bird in the thickest part. If the juices run clear, it should be cooked. When reheating food, make sure the food is heated all the way through. Food containing meat/chicken should be heated until boiling.
Thoroughly clean all feeding equipment such as spoons, trainer cups and bowls. Once your baby has taken food from a bowl, any leftover food should be discarded. This is because your baby’s saliva contains bacteria, which can speed spoilage.
Your food safety checklist for babies and young children:
- For young babies, up until 3 months of age, sterilise bottles by boiling in water or using sterilising solutions (such as Karicare sterilising tablets).
- Any food dropped on the floor should be discarded.
- Keep dirty nappies away from food and food preparation areas.
- Always wash your hands after handling dirty nappies.
- Keep the kitchen extra clean – including the floor where babies crawl.
- Keep pets out of the kitchen.
- Store extra food (prepared but not served) in a clean, covered container and in the coldest part of the fridge (not in the fridge door).
- Never leave food in opened cans.
- Throw away unfinished drinks and food scraps left on the plate.
- Change tea towels and kitchen cloths daily.
- Teach young children to wash their hands before touching food and after using the toilet.
Use a chilly bin to carry frozen and chilled food home from the supermarket. Do not use food that has exceeded its use-by date.