Food Safety isn’t just for Restaurants and their employees.
At home, it’s everyone’s responsibility
Everyone who goes out to eat expects the employees of the establishment to have taken the food handlers certification course and to follow the rules set by those standards. But what about home? Home is where most of the food we eat is prepared and served. Food safety starts at home. Without proper handling from start to finish we are more likely to get a food borne illness here than anyplace we go out to eat. It is everyone’s responsibility at home to assure they know what should be done to keep themselves healthy and those who eat there. And in everyone, I mean everyone, not just the person in charge of the meal prep that day. Of course the one cooking the meal is the one who is most responsible but all the caution taken by the cook can be ruined by another person coming into the kitchen who doesn’t know what to do or how to do it and why. Example: a pot of sauce simmering on the stove. A taster comes along and puts a spoon in to get a sample then puts the same spoon back in to get another sample or sample something else being cooked with that same spoon or fork just used to get the first taste. Not only did the person just put a used spoon back into a community (home) meal but they also cross contaminated it into other foods. Yuck! Best practice for this “done all the time” scenario is to taste, put the spoon in the sink, and then get another one. Or use a sample bowl and a serving utensil.
How to have safe food at home
Most people think “wash your hands’. Yes, for sure this is a must but not limited to just that. Washing hands is one at the top of the list. Wash hands before handling food and between food types. Washing your hands before you start the project doesn’t stop there. It you prep a meat product and go to the next item in the recipe without washing again then you’ve just cross contaminated your food with raw meat. Assuring no cross contamination doesn’t just stay on the cutting board, it includes our hands as well. We touch unclean things all day long, when cooking once we’ve washed out hands we still tend to touch unclean items during the process. Even a simple touch to our face requires another hand washing before continuing to cook. Kitchen visitors should not be allowed to touch any of the process, even a taste or a stir, without first washing up. All family members should be taught the importance of washing your hands. Washing before they sit to eat is just as important as it is for the person who prepares the food. All the caution in the world can go out the window when someone eats their own food with contaminated hands. It’s a scary world out there and we come into contact with an unbelievable amount of germs on a daily basis. We can be germy ourselves just by not washing after we use the bathroom or a host of other tasks done by using our hands. Teaching children the importance of washing up before a meal will go a long way in keeping them safe and healthy, not just at home but when they go out and about to other places such as a friend or school. Telling them why will help with getting them to want to wash up.
Beyond hand washing
There’s a lot to food safety but following a few simple rules at home can decrease the chances of creating a food borne illness. Remember the surface you are preparing the food on. Not just the cutting board but the whole counter top for which you place your product and utensils. Counter tops are germ central. Keep em clean, wash them thoroughly prior to food prep and along the way of your preparation so as not to cross contaminate any other items. The food. I like to make sure the food items I use are clean too. There is, of course, some food you can’t wash but what you can, you should. Vegetables. Most everyone thinks of doing that, which is good but I like to wash things like meat before I place it in my pot. You can’t exactly wash hamburger but you can and should rinse off roasts, chops, steaks, chicken, fish, etc..before you cook it.
Temps and storing food the safe way
Again, all the cleaning in the world can go out the window if you don’t follow the rules all the way through. Cooked food has temps that need to be followed. Each type of food like meats have a “done” temp zone that should be adhered to.
As a rule, it is advised that foods enter their proper temperature zones within 2 hours. For cold foods, the food safe temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit and below. For hot foods, the safe temperature is above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. I like to have a food temp guide taped on the inside of my cabinet door, it’s a great reference guide for not just me but others cooking in my kitchen. Once you get ready to clean up and put the left overs in the refrigerator make sure you cover and cool them appropriately. Don’t cover hot foods. Cool them as quick as they can be cooled and leave the cover partially or completely off until the food is in the safe zone. During storage don’t allow foods to be stored past the “Use by Date”. If you think you may not serve the left overs before three days then freeze it and use it later. I hate wasting food so if I think there’s a chance I won’t use it again for a few days it goes in the freezer for future use. Waste not want not right?
Educate your self
Educating your self can help you educate others who use your kitchen and educate those ‘up and coming cooks” in your family. There are many online food handlers certification courses and many are free. You don’t necessarily need to have the certificate but why not, if you’re on line and learning it then it’s yours. The main thing is to take the course, print the materials if you can or save them on your computer. There’s a wealth of information about safe food handling that should be implemented at home. There’s also a wealth of information on the kinds of food borne illnesses one can get, some of which are very serious so please follow the steps to keep food safe at home. No matter the state where you live or take the course, food safety is the same no matter where you are. So go take the course, teach food safety at home, and have fun because cooking can be fun and safe for all.
Avtio Yia Twpa (bye for now)