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A to Z of Food Safety

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A -Z OF FOOD SAFETY

ANIMALS including pets should be kept out of the kitchen, as they can be a source of bacteria. Pets should not be fed from household plates or dishes.

Picture of a dog which should be kept out of the kitchen

BACTERIA are the most common cause of food poisoning. They cannot be seen and in the right conditions with warmth, moisture, and a food source one bacterium can multiply into ONE MILLION bacteria in just over 3 hours. Cleanliness and temperature controls help keep bacteria at bay.

COOKING food thoroughly kills food poisoning bacteria. Food should be piping hot all the way through and juices in meat and chicken should run clear. A core temperature of at least 75 degrees C should be achieved for meat joints, poultry and casseroles, stews etc.

Picture of cooked chicken.

DEFROSTING of food should be done in the fridge and not at room temperature. Food should be thawed thoroughly and no ice crystals should remain. Do not re-freeze frozen foods that have been thawed.

EGGS should be stored in the fridge and used by the 'best before' date. Elderly or sick people, babies, young children and pregnant women should not eat raw or undercooked eggs.  

Picture of Eggs

FRIDGES AND FREEZERS should be kept clean and at the correct temperature. Fridges should be kept below 8 degrees C and freezers below –18 degrees C. Full fridges are harder to keep cold, so don't overstock. Freezers should be defrosted regularly to prevent ice build up.

Picture of a fridge.

GRAVY and other sauces can cause food poisoning if they are left for long periods at room temperature. They should be served hot or else cooled quickly and stored in the fridge.

HAND WASHING before and during food preparation is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of food poisoning bacteria. Hands must always be washed after handling raw foods because you could spread bacteria from them to other foods. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly using warm water and an antibacterial liquid soap. Work up a good lather and make sure you wash your wrists, hands, fingers, thumbs, fingernails, and in between the fingers. Rinse the soap off your hands with clean water. Dry your hands on a clean hand towel or disposable paper towel.

Picture of person washing their hands.

INSTRUCTIONS for storage, preparation and cooking of food products should always be followed.

JEWELLERY should be kept to a minimum as bacteria can live on and under watchstraps and rings, and gemstones and small parts can fall into food.

KITCHENS and other food preparation areas should be kept clean. Bacteria can spread fast in your kitchen, and cleanliness helps keep them down.

Picture of a clean kitchen.

LEFTOVERS should be covered to avoid contamination. Cold foods should be put into the fridge at once. Hot foods should be cooled quickly and put in the fridge within 1 – 2 hours. Putting foods in shallow containers and dividing it into smaller amounts will speed up the cooling process.  All leftovers should be reheated only once and eaten within 2 days or else disposed of.

MEAT, poultry and fish should be stored at the bottom of the fridge in sealable containers so they can't touch or drip onto ready to eat foods. Utensils and chopping boards should be washed after contact with raw meats and before contact with cooked foods.

Picture of raw meat.

NEVER handle cooked or ready to eat foods without washing your hands.

OPEN CANS should not be left with food inside. Unused food should be placed in covered containers in the fridge and used within 2 days.

Picture of an open can of food.

PEOPLE are a source of bacteria from their hands, ears, throat and hair. Good personal hygiene in the kitchen is essential for safe food.  Do not smoke when preparing food.

QUESTIONS about any food safety issues can be dealt with by your local Environmental Health Department.

REHEATING of food should be done only once, and the food should be piping hot all the way through.

Picture of microwave.

STORAGE of food carefully can stop it going off or becoming contaminated. Food should be kept at the correct temperature, use by dates should be observed, and cooked foods should be stored on the higher shelves of the fridge with raw food on the lower.

TEMPERATURE control helps control bacterial growth. Use a thermometer to check the following:
Fridge – below 8 degrees C
Freezer – below –18 degrees C
Hot food should be kept above 63 degrees C
Chilled food should be kept at or below 8 degrees C.

Picture of a fridge thermometer.

UNWELL If that's you, avoid handling food for others. Don't sneeze or cough near foods. Cover cuts with waterproof dressings. Keep your germs to yourself.

VEGETABLES should be washed thoroughly before cooking and eating.

Picture of vegetables.

WASH UP all utensils as soon as possible after use in hot water and washing up liquid. Rinse with clean, hot water and preferably leave to drain or use clean towels.

X – CONTAMINATION is the transfer of bacteria from foods (usually raw) to other foods. The bacteria can be transferred directly when one food touches or drips onto another, or indirectly, for example from hands, equipment, work surfaces, knives, or other utensils. Cross-contamination is one of the major causes of food poisoning.

YOUNG PERSONS, the elderly and sick can be severely affected if they have food poisoning. Food preparation areas need to be kept extra clean.

ZAP those germs! Follow food safety advice at all times:
Keep foods at the correct temperature and limit time between preparation and eating.
Keep everything clean to avoid cross-contamination.