C.R.E.A.T.E. Food Safety at Home
Updated: May 27, 2020
Written by Clara Wangsahardja, Provisional Accredited Practising Dietitian
Some of us have become amateur chefs and bakers, experimenting different recipes during self-isolation. But the last thing you want is to get sick from food poisoning because of mishandling!
So, how do we protect ourselves from harmful pathogens?
Fun fact: our hands are the perfect habitat for bacteria and germs to live – about 5 million of them! Imagine the whole Sydney population in microscopic scale running around on your palms. Ewww!!!
That’s why we have to wash our hands thoroughly with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after touching food - sing the ‘happy birthday’ song twice.
Next , make sure that your food preparation station, utensils and fresh ingredients are cleaned and washed properly. Rinse your fruits and veggies with running water then soak in baking soda (alkaline environment kills pathogens), and make sure you clean the lids of canned goods before opening.
REFRIGERATION “CHILLED” ETIQUETTE
- Cover any cooked and ready-to-eat foods to prevent cross contamination.
- Have cooked foods, ready-to-eat foods and raw foods stored separately, with cooked foods stored above raw foods.
- Implement the 2-hour rule: Store foods in the fridge or freezer immediately (or within 2 hours) after buying from the shops or as soon as it stops steaming after cooking.
- Let frozen food thaw in the fridge (or microwave); not on the kitchen bench.
- Let food marinate in the fridge; not in the room temperature.
- Ensure fridge is regularly cleaned.
- Detect signs of fridge maintenance/adjustments requirements -- If your milk and cheeses are going off quicker than they should, your fridge might need some adjustments or potential maintenance.
EMBRACE THE HEAT
Hot foods taste better when hot. Heat also kills germs.
Some meats including steaks, beef and lamb are safe to consume as long as the external area is fully cooked. However, most meats including chicken, pork and processed meats are required to be fully cooked to be safely consumed.
So, how can you tell when your meat is ready? Use a clean food thermometer and ensure that the thickest part of the meat (usually the middle part) reaches at least 75°C. If you don't have a thermometer, at least ensure the food is steaming hot.
One of the key messages of maintaining food safety is by avoiding cross contamination. Separate chopping boards for different food ingredients, especially for your raw meats vs ready-to-eat foods. Also, always wash chopping boards thoroughly with warm soapy water after every use.
TWO, TWO, TWO
Whether you’re having the night in and wanting to order food to be delivered or had brought some leftovers home, I got you. You can either consume your food immediately within 2 hours of delivery or refrigerate to be consumed later.
When reheating your food, ensure that it’s heated until steaming hot for at least 2 minutes in the microwave. Unfortunately, foods that have been out in the room temperature for >2 hours or in the fridge for more than 2 days need to be thrown away because of excessive bacterial growth :(
ENGAGE IN GOOD SHOPPING PRACTICES
If you’re like me, I like to wander in the shops because there’s just so much options!! However, impulsive shopping often leads to food spoilage. That’s why I usually have a shopping list with me to make sure that I don’t spend or buy more than what I need and having half of them in the bin at the end.
I’d also recommend shopping non-perishable items (ones that spoil fast) first before the perishable ones to ensure that the quality of these foods are kept. Also, I usually bring two shopping bags (one insulated and the other not) to separate these items accordingly on checkout.
'Use by' vs 'Best Before'
Did you know the difference between ‘use by’ date and ‘best before’ date on the food products?
‘Use by’ dates: the food must be eaten before the date displayed on the label as it’s unsafe to be consumed after the date stated.
‘Best before’ dates: the food is best to be eaten before the date stated as it posseses the highest nutritional value and quality within this time, however it’s still safe for consumption after the date stated unless signs of spoilage are detected.
Now that you’ve learned the basics of food safety at home, go forth and get creative with your cooking and baking. Yum!