Now that summer is almost here, more and more cases of food poisoning and food-borne infections are reported. More are expected in the coming months. While some of these cases are due contaminated food sold in supermarkets, most contamination actually occurs right in our own kitchen, and thus, with appropriate actions can be avoided. Our local newspaper has given us a couple of tips on how to avoid food-borne diseases. I add a couple of my own.
Wash hands. Such a simple action can avoid a lot of health issues. Hands should be washed before and after kitchen work, before and after handing food stuffs especially raw meat and fish.
Rings, bracelets and watches should not be worn while working in the kitchen.
Use your fridge and freezer properly. This means keeping these appliances at the right temperatures. The fridge should ideally be at 4°C, the deep freezer at -18°C. The freezer compartment of most fridges goes down only to -4°C and therefore shouldn’t be used for long-term storage.
Overfilling your fridge and freezer is not recommended as this can cause disruption in the temperatures.
Store food properly. Follow instructions on the food packaging in terms of storage. The time lag between supermarket and fridge/freezer should be as short as possible.
If possible, store separately food that needs to be cooked and ready-to-eat food stuff. Raw fish and meat are especially susceptible to spoilage and contamination.
Stored food should be placed in a proper container such as a box or a plastic foil. Not all containers can withstand freezing temperature and may break when used in the freezer. Do not store food in the metal tins it came with.
Do not eat food that is spoiled or expired. Pay attention to the expiration date!
Do not mix left-overs with freshly prepared food when storing.
Defrost food the right way. Defrosting deep-frozen food should not be done at room temperature but in the fridge at 5°C. I usually transfer frozen food to the fridge the night before just before I go to bed.
If time for defrosting is rather short, the defrosting option of the microwave can be useful.
Do not refreeze thawed food, raw or cooked.
Dispose of thaw water properly.
Keep your kitchen, utensils, and appliances clean. This includes the countertops, the fridge, the freezer and the oven. The fridge should be cleaned regularly whereas the freezer should be defrosted properly.
Remember that cleaning solutions may be effective against dirt and germs but they can also be toxic on their own. Try to use natural home cleaners instead.