Anyone who has suffered from food poisoning understands the importance of food safety. Many cases of “stomach flu” are caused by contaminated or mishandled food. In most cases, these illnesses can be easily prevented by practicing proper food safety.
Cleanliness is critical in all areas of food safety. Anything coming into contact with the food at any time must be clean. Temperature is also vital.
Rule #1: Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before handling food. This applies to both food preparation and to eating.
Rule #2: All surfaces, utensils, and food storage containers must be clean. Wash everything with hot soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Always use clean sponges or dishcloths to avoid spreading around bacteria. Air dry items and surfaces or dry with a clean dish towel or disposable paper towel.
Rule #3: Avoid cross-contamination. Use clean utensils and cutting boards for each food. If you don’t have separate cutting boards for different items, begin food preparation with fruits and vegetables, then proceed to meats. Another way to look at this is to start preparing items that will be served raw, then make items that will be cooked.
Rule #4: Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Meals should be held at temperatures below 40 °F (4 °C) or above 140 °F (60 °C). Bacteria that cause foodborne illness grow best between these temperatures, so avoid allowing food to spend time in this “temperature danger zone.”
Rule #5: Store food promptly and correctly. After about an hour, even food that started sufficiently cold or hot will have moved into the temperature danger zone if left out at room temperature. Outside on a warm day, this may happen even sooner. Pack up food promptly after serving and chill. Don’t clump together several friendly containers of food in one place in the refrigerator or freezer because it will take a long time for the temperature of the food to reach a safe temperature. Place food containers so that cold air can circulate them to cool the food more rapidly.
Following these five rules of food safety is simple and will help keep you and those you care for well. These safe food handling practices are easy to teach and develop into healthy lifestyles.