Every year millions of people get sick from food, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Nothing you can do will ever guarantee 100% protection against food-borne illness, but there are some simple precautions that help to reduce your risk.
1. Use a “refrigerator thermometer” to keep your food stored at a safe temperature
Cold temperatures slow the growth of bacteria. Ensuring that your refrigerator temperature stays at 40°F/ 4°C or colder is one of the most effective ways to reduce your risk of food-borne illness. You can buy a “refrigerator/freezer thermometer” at appliance stores, home centers.
2. Defrost food using a chiller
Perishable foods should never be thawed on the counter for longer than 2 hours because, while the center of the food may remain frozen, the outer surface may enter the Danger Zone. There is special equipment for that
3. Always use separate cutting boards for raw meat/poultry/fish and produce/cooked foods.
Bacteria from uncooked meat, poultry and fish can contaminate cooked foods and fresh produce. An important way to reduce this risk is to use separate cutting boards for raw meat/poultry/salads/fish/cooked foods.
4. Always cook meat to proper temperatures, using a calibrated instant-read thermometer to make sure.
One effective way to prevent illness is to use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of meat, poultry and egg dishes. The Recommended Safe Minimum Internal Temperatures are as follows: beef, veal and lamb (steaks and roasts), fish, 145°F/62°C; pork and ground beef, 160°F/71°C; poultry, 165°F/73°C. In the Kitchen we often recommend cooking meats like roasts and steaks to lower temperatures, closer to medium-rare, so that they retain their moisture. However, we recommend that for those who are at high risk for developing food-borne illness pregnant women and their unborn babies and newborns, young children, older adults, people with weakened immune systems or certain chronic illnesses follow the guidelines.
5. Avoid unpasteurized milk and cheeses made from unpasteurized milk that are aged less than 60 days.
Raw milk is milk from cows, sheep or goats that has not been pasteurized (heated to a very high temperature for a specific length of time) to kill harmful bacteria that may be present. These bacteria which include salmonella, E. coli and listeria can cause serious illness and sometimes even death. The bacteria in raw milk can be especially dangerous to pregnant women, children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. Raw-milk cheeses aged 60 days or longer are OK, since the salt and acidity of the cheesemaking process make for a hostile environment to pathogens.
6. Never eat raw eggs or foods that contain raw eggs.
Even eggs that have clean, intact shells may be contaminated with salmonella, so it’s important to cook eggs thoroughly until both the yolk and the white are firm. Casseroles and other dishes containing eggs should be cooked to 160°F/71°C (use an instant-read food thermometer to check). In the Kitchen, we don’t always recommend cooking eggs fully. However, we recommend that for those who are at high risk for developing foodborne illness pregnant women and their unborn babies and newborns, young children, older adults, people with weakened immune systems or certain chronic illnesses it's better to follow the guidelines. If you can’t resist runny eggs use pasteurized eggs.
7. Always wash your hands in warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds before handling food and after touching raw meat, poultry or eggsYou can pick up a lot of bacteria out in the world, so it’s important to always wash your hands before you eat or prepare food. You should also wash your hands after touching any uncooked meat, poultry and fish or eggs, as bacteria from these foods can contaminate cooked foods and fresh produce. Use soap and warm water and wash thoroughly for at least 20 seconds. It's good to use antibacterial gel afterwards.
8. Never eat meat, poultry, eggs or sliced fresh fruits and vegetables that have been left out for more than 2 hours (1 hour in temperatures hotter than 90°F/32°C)
If you leave perishable foods out of the refrigerator or freezer for more than 2 hours they may enter the Danger Zone in which bacteria multiply rapidly.
9. Whenever there’s a food recall, check products stored at home to make sure they are safe.
You should discard any food that’s been recalled because it’s associated with the outbreak of a food-borne illness. But according to a survey conducted by Rutgers University during the fall of 2008, only about 60 percent of professionals search for foods that have been recalled because of contamination.
10. Keep the food covered and put stickers of production date
Some foods need to be kept in the fridge to help stop bacteria growing. These foods must be covered and signed with a "use-by" date or the date of preparation.
Food safety is linked to the presence of food borne hazards in food at the point of consumption. Since food safety hazards can occur at any stage in the food chain it is essential that adequate control be in place. Therefore, a combined effort of all parties through the food chain is required.
Vassilios Canellos is a Hospitality Professional Hospitality Professional with more than 20 years of experience in leading service staff, managing teams and ensuring food safety standards, procedures and processes are followed. During this time, he's coached and mentored emerging talents, shared knowledge with several teams and spoken at Hotel industry events.