19 September 2014

How to - practice food safety guidelines at home

Image courtesy : Syracuse University edu

Here in US,whenever we buy any chicken/any meats,seafoods or eggs,there is a food label on the package with warnings and steps to follow to avoid food contamination.Initially,I ignored thinking it just rarely happens..not a big deal after all they are approved by FDA (Food and Drug Administration).

However,after hearing frequent news about E.Coli ,Salmonella contamination and likewise becoming a big threat to an ordinary man’s life ,small to famous food chains recalling their well-liked products and issuing consumer warnings ...A few unlucky people falling victim to it,losing their lives.I realized it is indeed a big deal,”Better be safe than sorry”. Not to mention,I became extra cautious about it.Sometimes,I forget to read those labels at the back of the product and by the time I would remind myself ,it’ll be in the trash.

So,I thought to SAVE it on my blog and SHARE with you all too (if you don't know or as a reminder) ,those vital points to keep in mind or refer always because it doesn't matter where we buy meats/eggs/seafoods from and what types but it does matter whether we follow the food safety guidelines properly or not.It is quite indispensable ! Ours and our family's health is everything after all and it does start from our very humble home.

To make it easy to remember always,let's call it 3C S (CLEAN,CHILL,COOK & SEPARATE)  .Let's explore them in detail:

When foods are contaminated by disease causing bacterias,parasites,toxins,viruses,chemical and physical contaminants, they can cause food borne illness, often called “food poisoning.”

The signs and symptoms of food borne illness are usually gastrointestinal symptoms, such as vomiting, upset stomach, diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, and dehydration, and can even cause serous health conditions like paralysis and meningitis.

The pregnant women,very young,  very old, and those with weak immune systems are most at risk and vulnerable to illnesses associated with contaminated food.

Since food borne illness can be really critical or even fatal , it is very important for us to know and practice safe food handling techniques especially at home.

  • Before and after handling raw seafood,meat,eggs ,wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds, to make sure you don't spread bacteria (including after using the restroom,diaper changing and pet handling). 
  • ASAP,use soap and hot water to wash utensils and surfaces which have come into contact with the raw food. To sanitize the utensils and surfaces , use kitchen sanitizers or make a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water.  
  • To clean plastic or other non-porous cutting boards after use, wash them in the dishwasher .
  •  Use paper towels/sanitizing tissues to clean up or dry up kitchen surfaces or if using the cloth towel,do wash them in the hot cycle of the washing machine.

  • To avoid cross-contamination,keep the raw foods (meats,poultry,eggs,seafoods) and their juices away from ready-to-eat/cooked foods.
  • Keep all the raw food separate from the rest in the grocery bags,shopping cart and refrigerator.
  • Never use the same cutting board for the raw foods and the fresh produce.
  • Never use the utensils or surface where the raw foods where handled for any other use.
  • Discard the marinades used on raw food unless it is boiled later.

  • The raw foods(sea foods,poultry,meats,eggs) should be immediately refrigerated as the cold temperatures halts the growth of harmful bacterias and preserves freshness.
  •  It is better to drive directly to home from the grocery store after purchasing any raw food. Take a cooler with ice to store immediately for perishables.
  • Refrigerate or freeze meat,poultry,eggs,seafood and other perishables within 2 hours of cooking or purchasing. If the temperature outside is above 90°F,Refrigerate within 1 hour .
  • Seafoods/poultry/meats can be refrigerated or frozen in its original packaging if they will be used soon.Keep them refrigerated at 40 °F (4.4 °C) or below and use within 1 or 2 days.
  • For longer storage, wrap them in a heavy duty plastic wrap/aluminum foil/freezer paper/plastic bags made for freezing. Ground beef/meat is safe indefinitely if kept frozen, but will lose quality over time. It is best if used within 4 months.
  • Never thaw raw foods at room temperature,like on the counter top.Instead it should be defrosted in the refrigerator keeping it overnight ,safely covered in an extra bag or container so that it won't drip any of its juices to other food stuffs. OR,in cold water by putting the raw meats/seafoods in a watertight plastic bag and immerse . Do change the water every 30 minutes. Cook immediately.OR,to defrost quickly ,use the microwave oven in "defrost mode", provided the raw foods are cooked immediately because some areas may already begin to cook during the defrosting. Do not refreeze raw ground meat thawed in cold water or in the microwave oven unless you cook it first.
  • Raw meats/seafoods should be left to marinate in the refrigerator.
  • The cooked leftovers of meats/seafoods should be refrigerated promptly after cooking (within 2 hours; 1 hour if the temperature is above 90 °F), it can be safely refrigerated for about 3-4 days. If frozen, for about 4 months.

  • Foods should be cooked until they reach the specified (refer the chart below) internal temperature ,which ensures killing the disease causing bacterias etc and making it safe to eat.
  • Use a food thermometer and refer the temperature chart to rule out the apt internal temperature for the ground poultry /ground meats. Color of the raw is not the sure mark of doneness.
  • Cook the eggs until the yolk and white are firm.
  • When reheating,bring gravies,sauces,soups to a full boil.
  • When cooking in microwave ,cover,stir the food and rotate to ensure even cooking.If a turntable is absent,rotate the dish once or twice by hand.Standing time (1-2 minutes) in between completes the cooking.Then confirm with the food thermometer to ensure "Fully cooked”.
Image courtesy:FDA.gov


[Reference:FDA.gov and foodsafety.gov]

“Care is an absolute and prevention is the ideal” ~ Christopher Howson

Take Care,

P.S.-Also read How to make homemade fruit and vegetable wash?