Food safety in the home
You can practically eliminate the risk of food poisoning if you:
- Handle food properly
- Store food correctly and
- Cook food sufficiently
You should store raw meat, poultry or fish near the bottom of the fridge so their juices do not drip onto other food. Cooked food should be stored on higher shelves. Food should be placed in a container or on a covered tray in the fridge.
Keep your fridge clean – throw out old food, wash inside surfaces with warm soapy water and rinse.
Store food as directed on the label.
For frozen storage, it is best to remove the food from the wrapping and put it into freezer bags to maintain its quality. You should expel all air from the bag and then tie, label and date it.
You should cover and store cooked food in the fridge after the steam has evaporated. Never leave cooked food to cool completely on the kitchen counter.
Do not put too much warm food in your fridge as it will not be able to cool to the core. Germs can multiply when the centre of the food remains warm for too long.
Put chilled and frozen food into your fridge and freezer as soon as possible after purchase. Freeze food you do not intend to use before its use-by-date, as freezing greatly extends this date.
When you are re-heating food, heat it until it is steaming hot all the way through (above 70°C) – this will kill any bacteria that may have grown on the food when it was in the fridge. Food should never be re-heated more than once and leftover food should be used within a day of preparation.
Canned goods should be stored in a cool, clean, dry place.
Remember, if you are any doubt about a food item, throw it out.
Always make sure that frozen food is thawed completely before cooking, unless instructions state "cook from frozen".
If you are using a microwave to thaw food, cook it immediately after thawing. Never thaw food at room temperature on the kitchen counter.
Once it is thawed, cook food immediately. Thawed food should never be re-frozen in its uncooked state.
Always cook food thoroughly until it is hot - all parts of the food must reach at least 70°C.
When cooking mince, sausages, hamburgers, rolled roasts, pork and chicken, make sure that they are cooked right through, that there is no pink meat and that the juices run clear. If cooked chicken is still raw near the bone, put it back in the oven until it is done.
You should never serve hot gravy with cold meat.
When using the microwave to cook, always rotate and stir food to make sure it cooks evenly. Leave the food to stand for a few minutes before you check that cooking is complete – food continues to cook even when the microwave is turned off.
Always wash your hands thoroughly in hot, soapy water before serving or eating food.
Never leave potentially hazardous food, raw or cooked, at room temperature any longer than necessary – never leave it longer than 2 hours.
Always remember to keep hot food hot and cold food cold.
Fridges and freezers have star ratings that tell you about the temperatures they can maintain:
* – One star means that the frozen food compartment of your fridge can maintain a temperature of –6°C
** – Two stars mean it can maintain a temperature of –12°C
*** – Three stars mean it can maintain a temperature of –18°C
**** – Four stars mean it can maintain a temperature of –18°C and can freeze.
Always use separate cutting boards and utensils for cooked and raw food as this will prevent bacteria from a meat or poultry product contaminating another food. Wash cutting boards thoroughly with hot, soapy water between uses.
Discard cutting boards if they become excessively worn or develop hard-to-clean grooves.
Always wash your hands thoroughly in hot, soapy water before handling food and after every preparation – especially if you have changed the baby or have been to the toilet. After touching raw meats and poultry, wash your hands again before you start handling other food.
Always wash raw fruit and vegetables thoroughly before eating them.
Wash all work surfaces thoroughly with hot soapy water – ideally, you should use a disinfectant. Wiping surfaces with a damp cloth is not enough. Food is easily contaminated, so think of every crumb or scrap of food as a potential reservoir of germs.
Do not prepare food for others if you are feeling unwell.
Change your dishcloth and tea towel regularly and wash well after each use – bacteria can flourish in dishcloths. Avoid storing your dishcloth and tea towel near food or on clean surfaces.
Dirty dishes should be washed in warm soapy water and rinsed in hot water. Dishes should be left to air dry. Do not place a tea towel over them as this may spread bacteria from the tea towel onto the clean dishes.
Keep a separate cloth to wash your kitchen floor.
Clean your fridge and cupboards regularly as crumbs in cupboards can attract pests and dirty fridges can carry bacteria.