1. Buy Local Food
Food that passes through the hands of many people has more chances to become contaminated. In the mass production of foods, dozens of different workers tend the crops and harvest them. As the food is sorted, packed, shipped, unloaded, and put on shelves, it could be handled by an enormous number of people. If the food is destined for a restaurant, even more hands are involved in its preparation, service, and storage.
Local food is generally harvested by the farmers themselves with some hired help, then loaded onto trucks and shipped by these same people. The food spends much less time in transit, meaning that harmful microbes have less of a chance to flourish on and in the food. It also means far less chance of coming in contact with other foods and equipment which may have food contamination.
2. Prepare Your Own
Cooking your own food can reduce your risk of food-borne illness. If you follow the proper protocol (see below), your family will be much less likely to suffer from food poisoning. This gives you far greater control over what goes onto your families plates at meal time, and not leave it to chance that the restaurant or place where you got your food is safe.
3. Cook It
Animal foods should not be eaten raw. Whether eggs, shellfish or beef – animal foods need to be thoroughly cooked (between 165 and 212 degrees) for optimal safety. Using marinades containing vinegar and/or garlic can help keep microbes at bay. (Vinegar and garlic kill germs.)
4. Chill It
Cold temperatures inhibit the growth of mold and bacteria. Get your groceries home and into the freezer or refrigerator as soon as possible. If you have a lot of errands to run before you can get your groceries home, bring a cooler with an ice block along in your car. After serving, put cold foods back in the refrigerator instead of leaving them on the counter (see below). Thaw meat in the refrigerator, not on the countertop.
5. Heat It and the Food Danger Zone
And keep it hot! The “food danger zone” (hot and cold) is between 40 and 140 degrees (F). Food that is in that zone is getting bacteria which causes food contamination. Any food that is in that temperature range for longer than 4 hours should be disposed of. If you need to keep food hot while you finish cooking or eating a meal, keep it in your oven at a temperature above 150 degrees. If you are reheating leftovers, the food should be heated thoroughly. Another good point to remember is when cooking large amounts of food that will be stored in the refrigerator, separate the food into smaller containers before placing in refrigerator. This way the food will cool off faster and will also save you a little electricity. When you place large containers of hot or warm food in the refrigerator, it takes much longer to cool off and thus, the food in that container will be in the food danger zone much longer than the 4 hours recommended by the experts. It is also a good idea to leave recently cooked food out on the counter for a short period of time to cool down before placing in the refrigerator, and again, if it is a large amount, like a stew casserole, divide it up into smaller containers to quicken the cooling process so that it remains in the food danger zone for a much shorter time period.
6. Wash It
Wash your hands before handling food in the kitchen and before eating. When preparing produce, always wash it first – even if it is organic, and even if the label says it’s “pre-washed.” You should also wash your poultry following the same rules for washing produce.
Wash your cutting boards with bleach and water between uses. Never cut raw meat on the same cutting board that you use for vegetables.
7. Separate It
Make sure all meats are stored separately from vegetables in your refrigerator. Keep meats separate from fruits and vegetables in your grocery cart and shopping bags, too.
8. Cross Contamination
This is mentioned briefly above, but this is another important aspect of reducing the risk of food contamination. When cooking, keep utensils such as spoons, knives, forks, cutting boards, mixing bowls, whisks, and other kitchen utensils form coming in contact with other items. Keep all your food and kitchen items separate. For instance, don’t use the same knife and cutting board you used to cut you chicken with to cut vegetables with, or vice verse, and don’t use the same utensil you used to scramble the eggs to serve them. You should use separate clean utensils for each and every different food item, it is not a good idea to use the same dirty utensils on all your different menu items. Also keep in mind that raw food and cooked food also need different clean utensils, do not use the mixing bowl or mixing utensil that you used on raw food to serve the food. Make sure that you either wash the utensil or get fresh, clean utensils to serve the food with!
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We hope that Food Contamination And The Food Danger Zone: Food Safety Information And Food Handling Safety helps both you and your loved ones to better understand food contamination, food handling safety and food safety information and better enjoy your food and stay healthy in the process!