Have you ever had that bad case of diarrhea, where you have to run within seconds to the bathroom? Or you have been admitted to the hospital due to food poisoning? If you have or have taken care of a person who has, you should know how uncomfortable and bad it is. But it could be easily avoided through proper food handling and storage.
Diseases transmitted through the food that you eat can range from diarrhea to life-threating infections and even poisoning. Bacteria, also called germs in layman’s term, are only one of the many minute organisms that cause these illnesses. Others include viruses, fungi, and parasites. People with a weak immune system, such as the elderly or those who are sick, and babies are the ones that have high risks in catching the diseases. That is why food should be handled and prepared properly. Even storing leftover food has a proper way of doing it.
To ensure the safety of you and your family (or just yourself if you live alone), you should be aware of the basic practices to guarantee food safety. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has provided four basic steps to prevent poor food safety in our homes. I will outline these steps in the article together with some of the things I personally do to make sure that what I’m eating is safe.
FDA’s 4 Basic Steps for Food Safety
These are the FDA approved steps to “. . . help keep you and your family safe.” Don’t worry, it won’t take much from you but compliance and dedication.
“Always wash your food, hands, counters, and cooking tools.”
Now, this is common sense. But, let’s be honest here, we still miss a thing or two in this one. For one, washing your hands should not only be done when we “feel” that our hands are icky and dirty. When handling food, when preparing to cook, or eating, the hand should always wash your hands before and after. This makes sure you won’t carry germs that you got from your day to the food that you are handling. In the same way, you won’t carry the germs from the raw food to any surface that you will put your hands on.
But how should you wash your hands? Washing your hands isn’t just about putting your hands under running water. Use warm running water and soap, and include 20 seconds of rubbing to remove those nasty bugs. You don’t need an anti-bacterial soap. In fact, it isn’t recommended to use one for handwashing. Just a regular hand-washing soap is enough. But if you have a little extra for this month’s budget, you might want to invest in a good handwashing soap. I find Dr. Bronner’s Organic Sugar Soap to be the best, especially if you have sensitive skin. The soap is true to its organic claim as it is made from all-natural and vegan ingredients. What’s better than keeping those pesky bugs away while taking care of your skin?
Aside from your hands, the fruits and vegetables you bought should also be washed. This is important, especially if you’ll eat it raw with the skin. Rinsing it before storing and eating removes germs from the food, making it safe for consumption.
Another thing that must be cleaned before doing anything with it is the lid of canned goods. Lids can become rusty or accumulate dust that we don’t want to mix with our food. So it’s better to wipe it with a towel before opening it.
Lastly is cleaning up the countertops and kitchen utensils. Here’s a thing that I don’t often do, and guilty of not doing. Don’t get me wrong. I do clean up the utensils and table and countertops that I used. But that is not enough, apparently, especially for the utensils. Utensils, this includes your chopping boards, knife, can openers, and anything that you have used for cooking should be washed in between working different food items. This limits the transfer of germs from one food item to another in case one item has bad bugs on it or you forgot to wash the item. Your workspace shouldn’t be cleaned with just a wiping, too. Use hot soapy water when cleaning your table and countertops. Or better yet use a surface cleaner for this one. Caldrea Pear Blossom Agave Countertop Spray does a good job of cleaning your countertops while leaving a fresh scent in the room!
“Keep raw food to themselves.”
Did you know that food safety goes as far back as when you were shopping for your groceries? No? Well, now you do (as do I). FDA suggests that it is best to start separating your food items, like raw meat, seafood, poultry, and eggs, away from the rest of your groceries in your shopping cart. This minimizes the spread of germs from one item to another. This should be carried through when bagging them and storing them in the fridge. If you have a little extra in your budget, buying a separate cutting board and/or plate for raw food is the best way to keep its separate from you other food items.
In storing your food separately, you can use the Prep Naturals Glass Meal Prep Containers. It is on the pricey side but this item lasts longer than your regular rubber container and is a much healthier option than plastic containers. Additionally, it is also a microwave, oven, and freezer-safe item, which means that you can use it for a lot of other things, other than keeping food items separate in the fridge. It’s a good investment if you ask me.
Another thing to keep in mind is to avoid reusing the marinades on raw food. Raw food contains a high number of nasty bacteria and can be carried over to other raw food that you’ll reuse your marinade on. The only time this is acceptable is when you boil it first before reusing it.
“Food needs to get hot and stay hot.”
Aside from making your food taste good, the other purpose of cooking your food is to kill the germs and other nasty bugs on your food item. Now there are different ways of cooking and I won’t mention it here but there are certain temperatures that meat should be safe to eat, and you are sure that you have killed the bugs. The food should stay hot, too, to makes sure that those germs stay away. But you can’t tell by merely, touching it, can you? So it’s better to use a food thermometer to make sure that the food stays on their safe temperature. One of the budget-friendly and still works well is the ThermoPro TP03. It’s very fast and easy to use, and, at the same time, accurate in giving a reading. The best part about it is that its warranty lasts up to 3 years! Isn’t that a score?
Here’s the list of the temperatures of which a certain type of meat should be cooked in:
- 145 °F for Beef, pork, lamb and fish
- 160 °F for Ground beef, pork, and lamb
- 165 °F for Turkey, chicken, and duck
“Put the food in the fridge right away.”
Have you ever heard that there’s a “Two-Hour Rule” for food? If you don’t, here it is. The two-hour rule is simple. The food that you have cooked or bought from the store should be placed in your fridge or the freezer within two hours. That’s it, that’s how simple the two-hour rule is. This is to make sure that those little unseen organisms in your food don’t multiply into a number that can get you really sick. However, if the temperature outside is 90° or more, it is best to make sure that your place your groceries and cooked food in the fridge within an hour. Marinated foods should also be stored in the fridge and should not be left outside for the same reason.
A good refrigerator now sounds like a good investment and it really is. There are a lot of different types of refrigerators out there. But, if you’re like me who lives in a little studio type apartment then I suggest you check out the compact fridge from Galanz. It has a 2.6 cubic feet capacity with compressor cooling. It also has a separate ice cube chamber that you can use as your mini freezer.
When you’d like to thaw a certain item from your freezer, it’s best to let it thaw in the fridge, under cold water or even in a microwave. The fridge and cold water slow down the increase of germs while your food item is thawing. The microwave also quickly thaws it quickly in the heat without giving the germs time to multiply. Find a microwave with a defrost setting like the Panasonic Microwave Oven NN-SN966S. This oven has inverter technology, which means that it heats the food to the center and not just on the outside. Now you can enjoy your food hot even in the middle, and defrost your frozen food safely.
So those are the four basic ways to make sure of your family’s safety and yourself, as well. Easy, right? But sometimes the most basic things are also the easiest to forget. So it’s better to jog your memory a bit and maybe pick up one or two things along the way.