Food Safety

Wash your hands

As we are constantly being reminded at present, the way to make sure your hands are virus and bacteria free is to wash thoroughly with soap and hot water for minimum of 20 seconds, then dry as wet hands spread bacteria more easily.

This is especially important at all times when preparing food

  • particularly before you start to prepare food
  • after touching raw foods like meat and vegetables
  • after going to the toilet, sneezing or touching your face
  • after touching the bin or stroking pets.

Remember – Clean Hands = Safe Hands


Preparing food Safely

It’s very important to prepare food safely, to help stop harmful bacteria from spreading, growing, making us ill.

Before you start, make sure that your worktops, kitchen utensils and chopping boards are clean.  This includes dishcloths and tea towels, a perfect place for bacteria to grow.

Raw Meat, poultry, fish and dirty vegetables contain harmful bacteria that will spread very easily to anything they touch including hands, worktops, chopping boards and knives. It is very important to clean as you go and keep raw food away from ready to eat foods such as salad, fruit and bread. These foods will not be cooked before you eat them so any bacteria present will not be killed.

To help stop bacteria from spreading, remember these things:

  • Don’t let raw meat, fish or dirty vegetables touch other food.
  • Never prepare ready-to-eat food using a chopping board or knife that you have used to prepare raw meat or fish, unless they have been washed thoroughly first.
  • Always wash your hands thoroughly after touching raw meat or fish and before you touch anything else.
  • Always cover raw meat or fish and store them on the bottom shelf of the fridge where they cannot touch or drip onto other foods.
  • Don’t wash raw meat before cooking it. Washing does not get rid of harmful bacteria – the only way to do this is by cooking the food thoroughly. If you wash raw meat or fish you also run the risk of splashing bacteria onto worktops and utensils.


Fresh Fruit and Vegetables

When preparing fresh fruit and vegetables, cut away any damaged or bruised areas. Wash thoroughly under running water before eating, cutting or cooking even if you intend to peel it .


Storing Foods Safely

Always look at the food labels which will advise you how to keep the food safely and when it needs to be used by.

You will find that food that goes off quickly usually has storage instructions on the label that say how long you can keep the food and whether it needs to go in the fridge. This sort of food often has special packaging to help keep it fresh for longer. But it will go off quickly once you’ve opened it. This is why the storage instructions also tell you how long the food will keep once the packaging has been opened. For example, you might see ‘eat within 2 days of opening’ on the label.

You will also see ‘use by’ dates on food that goes off quickly. You should not use any food after the ‘use by’ date even if the food looks and smells fine, because it might contain harmful levels of bacteria.

Other foods will have ‘Best before’ dates, these are more about quality than safety. So when the date runs out it doesn’t mean that the food will make you ill, but it might begin to lose its flavour and texture. The one exception to this is eggs, do not eat after the ‘best before’ date.


Storing food in a fridge

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You need to make sure your fridge is cold enough otherwise food poisoning bacteria will still be able to grow. Your fridge should be between 0ºC and 5ºC.

 If you’re not sure how the temperature setting or dial works on your fridge, you could use a fridge thermometer to check it’s the right temperature.

Here are a few other fridge tips that you might find useful:

  • keep the fridge door closed as much as possible
  • wait for food to cool down before you put it in the fridge
  • if your fridge is full, turn the temperature down to help keep it cold enough

Some food needs to be kept in the fridge to help stop bacteria growing, this would include food with a ‘use by’ date, cooked food , ready-to-eat food such as desserts and cooked meats.

Some foods including jars and bottles need to be kept in the fridge after they have been opened, always check label and follow the storage instructions.

When you are preparing food, keep it out of the fridge for shortest time possible especially when the weather or room is warm.

If you are not going to eat straight away, keep food in the fridge. Buffets or party food should be kept in the fridge until people are ready to eat.

Leftovers should be cooled quickly (ideally within 1-2 hours) and then kept in the fridge, eat within two days, the exception being cooked rice which must be eaten within one day.

Raw meat and poultry should be stored in clean sealed containers at the bottom of the fridge so it cannot drip onto other food, eat within the use by date. If you cook meat that you are going to eat later, cool as quickly as possible, put into fridge or freezer, keep it separate from raw meat.

Following these guidelines will ensure you keep your food safe and reduce chance of getting food poisoning.


Storing Food in a Freezer

The freezer is a great tool to ensure you always have some food in stock and helps to avoid wasting food.
In theory, food can be kept safely in a freezer for years as long as the temperature is correct, but the taste and texture will deteriorate and may not be as nice to eat.
You can check instructions on food labels or in your freezer’s handbook (if you don’t have this any more, you might be able to find it online) to see how long food should be frozen.

For safety, it’s OK to freeze most raw or cooked foods providing you do the following things:

  • freeze it before the ‘use by’ date
  • follow any freezing or thawing instructions on the label
  • thaw it in the fridge so that it doesn’t get too warm. Or, if you intend to cook it as soon as it’s defrosted, you could defrost it in a microwave
  • try to use it within one to two days after it’s been defrosted – it will go off in the same way as if it were fresh
  • cook food until it’s steaming hot all the way through
  • When frozen meat and fish (and some other foods) thaw, lots of liquid can come out of them. If you’re defrosting raw meat or fish, this liquid will spread bacteria to any food, plates or surfaces that it touches. Keep the meat and fish in a sealed container at the bottom of the fridge, so that it can’t touch or drip onto other foods.Always clean plates, utensils, surfaces and hands thoroughly, after they have touched raw or thawing meat, to stop bacteria from spreading.If you defrost raw meat or fish and then cook it thoroughly, you can freeze it again, but remember never reheat foods more than once.


Storing Food in Cupboards

Many types of food do not need to be stored in the fridge to keep them safe to eat, for example dry foods such as rice, pasta and flour, many types of drinks, tinned foods, and unopened jars. But it is still important to take care how you store them.

Here are some tips:

  • Try to keep food in sealed bags or containers. This helps to keep them fresh and stops anything falling into the food by accident.
  • Don’t store food or drinks near cleaning products or other chemicals.
  • Don’t use old food containers to store household chemicals, and don’t store food in containers that have been used for other purposes.
  • Only reuse plastic water bottles if they’re not damaged and you can clean them.
  • Don’t store food on the floor, because this can encourage mice, ants and other pests.
  • Keep the storage area dry and not too warm.
  • Remember that some types of food might need to be kept in the fridge once you’ve opened them – follow any storage instructions on the label


Cooking Foods

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Cooking food properly will help make sure that any harmful bacteria are destroyed. Eating food that is not properly cooked could give you food poisoning.

To test if food has been properly cooked, check that it’s steaming hot all the way through.
Cut open the food with a small knife so you can check that it’s steaming hot in the middle, this should mean that it is hot all the way through. But if you’re cooking a very large dish, you might need to check it in more than one place to make sure it has cooked evenly.

Cooking thermometers or temperature probes can be an easy way to check if food is cooked properly. The food should reach a temperature of 70°C for more than 2 minutes in the middle or thickest part.

It’s very important to make sure that poultry, pork and meat products such as burgers, sausages and kebabs are properly cooked all the way through. The meat in the middle should not be steaming hot and not ‘pink’. If you are cooking a whole chicken or other bird, use a knife or skewer to pierce the thickest part of the leg (between the drumstick and thigh) the juices should be clear if cooked.

Some meats are preferred to be eaten ‘rare’. This is fine for steaks and other whole cuts of beef and lamb, as long as the outside of the meat has been properly cooked ‘sealed’ on the outside. It is important to seal meat to kill the bacteria that live on the outside of meat, you will know this has been done correctly, as all of the outside will have changed colour.

There are cuts of meat that cannot be eaten rare and must always be properly cooked, steaming hot in the middle, juices not pink or red.

This includes poultry, pork, burgers, sausage, chicken nuggets, rolled joints and kebabs as these types of meat can have bacteria all the way through them not just on the outside. If they are not cooked properly then any bacteria might not be killed.


Reducing Waste

In the UK, we end up throwing away 8.3 million tonnes of food and drink every year, about a third of the food we buy ends up being thrown away, most of this could have been eaten.

There are a few simple things we can do to reduce waste, save money and still make sure food is safe.

The main thing is to try to make sure we don’t buy or cook more food than we want to eat. But if you do find you have ‘left overs’ then if stored properly they will be safe to eat for the next couple of days as long as

  • Hot food is cooled as quickly as possible (ideally within one to two hours) and then stored in the fridge. Make sure your fridge is between 0°C and 5°C.
  • Do not keep leftovers for longer than two days.
  • When you reheat food, make sure that it’s steaming hot all the way through. If the food is only warm it might not be safe to eat. Do not reheat food more than once.