What is food safety?
Food safety practices prevent foodborne illness and injury through routine practices and procedures in preparing, handling, and storing food. These practices may be implemented at every stage of the food production life cycle to protect consumers from harm. When food products are transported from farm to factory and finally to the dinner table, they may encounter various health hazards along the way.
Many government and private organizations provide comprehensive guidelines for auditing food manufacturers, based on food safety and hygiene standards to ensure better public health. It also ensures that consumers receive safe, high-quality products. In addition, these international standards facilitate the global food trade by helping food industry players from different countries achieve the same quality and safety standards across borders.
For example, the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) approach recommended by the United States Food And Drug Administration (FDA) is a risk-based system aimed at preventing biological, chemical, and physical contamination of food in production, packaging, and distribution environments.
HACCP avoids health hazards by identifying potential food safety problems before they happen, rather than by inspecting food products after incidents occur. In adherence to hygiene practices throughout, HACCP entails controlling for contaminants at several key junctures in food production as a safe food handling practice.
HACCP consists of five sub-programs- hazard identification, critical control points, monitoring and verification, corrective action, and record keeping. All the food safety systems employed at commercial units dealing with the production, preparation, and storage of food in the United States follow these guidelines.
While it's difficult to implement a food safety system at home, it's wise and helpful to understand safe food handling practices for any individual in charge of the kitchen.
Food Safety Charts
Storing foods with proper precaution helps preserve the quality of food. It also prevents food poisoning and spoilage. Storage temperature is one of the most important factors in ensuring food safety. Food safety charts are temperature guides to help you know what temperatures are good for storing specific foods. Here's an example of a food safety chart-
|Food items||Storing at room temperature (50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit)||Refrigeration (at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below)||Freeze (at 0 degree Fahrenheit or below)||Internal temperatures while cooking (F)|
|Fresh meats- beef, lamb, veal or pork (steaks, chops or roasts)||Not safe||3 to 5 days||1 to 12 months||145|
Rest time- 3 minutes
|Ground meats (beef, pork, veal, lamb, stew)||Not safe||1 to 2 days||3 to 4 months||160|
|Bacon||Not safe||2 weeks||1 month||160|
|Sausage or raw meat from pork or beef||Not safe||1 to 2 days||3 to 4 months||165|
|Raw fish and shellfish||Not safe||1 to 2 days||3 to 8 months (the texture and flavor may deteriorate with time.)||145 or cook till the time the flesh isn't translucent. It should separate with a fork|
|Cooked fish, shellfish and other seafood||Not safe||3 to 4 days||3 to 4 months||Cook until shells open during cooking|
|Canned fish (such as tuna)||Not safe||For 5 years if unopened, or till "Use by'' date. Opened, one week.||145|
|Raw eggs||1 to 2 days||3 to 5 weeks||Cook until yolk and white are firm|
|Hard boiled eggs||Not safe||One week||1 to 2 months||160|
As a parent, you are responsible for ensuring your family’s safety
Take these easy steps to maintain food safety and protect your family from foodborne illnesses
Dangerous Food Safety Mistakes
A few things are basic knowledge. Like we all know that we should wash our hands after using the restroom and before eating or cooking food, but did you know that washing raw chicken can spread germs to other food, surfaces, and utensils in the kitchen? The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests not washing chicken, meat, turkey, or eggs. Instead, "cooking them thoroughly will kill harmful germs."
There are other food safety mistakes that we inadvertently make. Here are some of the most common ones to watch out for-
- Not washing your hands- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water after using the restroom, blowing your nose, and eating.
- Unmindful of cross-contamination- Cross-contamination is when bacteria or other contaminants are transferred from one food to another. It can happen if you use the same cutting board for raw meat and fresh produce or don't properly clean cooking utensils between use.
- Not cleaning surfaces properly- Always clean surfaces such as countertops, cutting boards, and utensils thoroughly with hot, soapy water if they come into contact with raw meat or poultry.
- Not cleaning fruits and vegetables- Be sure to wash produce in clean water, even if you plan to peel it. Wash it under running water, including products that you think are clean, like organic produce. Spread out produce on a clean cutting board and rinse under running water. Use a brush on tough-to-clean fruits and vegetables like cantaloupe and potatoes.
- Leaving meats undercooked- Meat should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 F to kill harmful bacteria. And allowed to rest 3 minutes before carving or eating. We often undermine the function of a food thermometer; however, using one to check the internal temperature of the meat before serving can help you avoid food poisoning. Use a food safety chart as a guide to ensure you follow food safety temps.
- Not cooking eggs properly- Raw eggs can contain the bacteria Salmonella, which can cause food poisoning. As per food safety guidelines, cooking eggs until the white and yolk are firm or purchasing pasteurized eggs, helps.
- Using dairy products past their expiration date- Bacteria can grow rapidly in dairy products past their expiration date, so it's important to throw them out as soon as they expire. Expired milk or eggs can cause gastrointestinal illness, while outdated meats may harbor harmful bacteria that can lead to food poisoning. Even if the dairy product looks and smells normal, it could still make you sick.
- Refrigerating foods too soon- Placing hot foods in the refrigerator will raise the temperature inside, potentially leading to bacterial growth; let them cool before refrigerating.
- Failing to refrigerate leftovers promptly- Leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking time; if the temperature is above 90 F outside, refrigerate within one hour. Be sure to store leftovers in covered airtight containers or baggies, so they don't spoil quickly.
Food Safety by Type of Food
Food poisoning is a serious issue affecting thousands of people every year. But there are ways to prevent it from happening to you and your loved ones.
Some foods are more prone to causing foodborne illnesses than others. Therefore, it's cardinal to handle these foods properly. If you're going to eat something that's not as healthy as it seems, at least ensure that you get it right. Know the signs of food poisoning and check out these food safety tips to keep your food safe.
- Meat and poultry- Raw meat and poultry are potential sources of infectious bacteria, such as E. coli and Salmonella. Poultry may also have Campylobacter. Proper cooking can destroy these germs, but improper handling and storage can cause them to become re-contaminated.
- Raw seafood- Seafood is nutritious, but also a possible source of toxins such as mercury. However, cooking it to the right temperature can destroy these toxins.
- Eggs- Eggs may contain Salmonella. Keep them refrigerated, and once removed from the refrigerator, cook them, or any dish containing them, thoroughly.
- Milk, cheese, and other dairy products- Raw milk is potentially harmful to humans, especially if the milk comes from cows that are unhealthy. The bacteria that cause diseases such as listeriosis can be found in raw milk and its products, including soft cheeses (queso fresco and brie), yogurt, and ice-cream. Therefore, it's important to make sure that milk has been pasteurized, which kills harmful bacteria.
- Nuts, grains, and beans- These are commonly used as ingredients in various food products. If they are contaminated or mislabeled, they can cause serious allergic reactions in people prone to allergies. For example, people with celiac disease -- a disorder that attacks the small intestine and reduces the body's ability to absorb nutrients -- or who are sensitive to gluten. The gluten naturally found in some grains can lead to serious conditions such as anemia, osteoporosis, diabetes, thyroid disease, and intestinal cancers. Therefore, it is important to check for the 'gluten-free' label.
Food Safety in Disaster or Emergency
Usually, a drastic situation affects food production or distribution, as happened during the pandemic. It could be due to damage to crops, livestock, disrupted transportation, disruption among the farmers/workers, or other factors. Food supply can also be affected if people cannot access stores or markets due to evacuation orders or other safety concerns. And then, there are situations when disruptions in power or water supply can impact food supply, as these are necessary for food production and storage.
If there is a power outage, for example, food in refrigerators and freezers are likely to spoil. If transportation routes are disrupted, grocery stores may be unable to restock their shelves. And if water supplies are contaminated, eating or drinking anything may unsafe.
In case of emergencies, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests- "When they do (occur), the best strategy is to already have a plan in place." If a disaster or emergency strikes, you first need to check the expiration dates on all your foods and supplies. If any food has expired, throw it away. Assess how long you think the disaster or emergency will last. If it will only last a few days, you don't need to worry, except for paying attention to food safety and sanitation before consuming anything. However, if the disaster or emergency is expected to last longer than a few days, you will need to ration your food. If you need to evacuate your home, it's important only to take non-perishable foods.
To keep food safe during these times, there are a few measures one should take-
- If utilities are disrupted, stock up on foods with a long storage life that require little or no cooking, water, or refrigeration. These foods should meet the requirements of infants, pets, and people on special diets. These edible items shouldn't be very spicy or salty (as they increase water consumption, which may be in short supply).
- During a power outage, keep refrigerated foods cold. If the power is lost, keep the fridge and freezer doors closed as often as possible to maintain the temperature.
- Most importantly, when in doubt, discard! If you're unsure how long a refrigerator has gone without power or if food was stored at an unsafe temperature, play it safe and get rid of the food rather than risk becoming ill from eating contaminated food. Keep meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers refrigerated for no more than four hours -- that's one hour if it's over 90 degrees outside. After four hours (or one hour in hot weather), one must throw these items out because bacteria multiplies quickly at temperatures between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Discard food items with an unusual odor, color, or texture, and anything in packages without waterproofing. Items in cardboard containers, like milk, baby formula boxes, or juices, must be checked.
- Use caution with canned goods. If cans are damaged or dented, do not use them as the food in them may be contaminated. Also, beware of bulging cans, as this could indicate bacterial growth inside the can.
Foodborne illnesses can happen to anyone, and they are not always easy to avoid
Zipfoodhandler will teach you how to keep your family safe from foodborne illnesses
Food Safety by Events and Seasons
Foodborne illnesses often soar during summers as bacteria spreads faster in warm weather. During an event -- a wedding, festival, or a get-together -- one can never be sure when guests will start eating the buffet or the meals laid out on a table. This can lead to spoilage of food.
It is, thus, important to take precautions -- understand food safety fridge storage guidelines, use a food thermometer, and remember the two-hour rule, that is, throw away perishables that have been left out at room temperature for over 2 hours.
If you are someone who loves hosting people during different times of the year -- for Thanksgiving lunches or Super Bowl dinners -- it will help to be educated in food safety. There are several food safety resources easily available today. The FoodKeeper app for one -- developed by the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, with Cornell University and the Food Marketing Institute -- helps understand storage guidelines for different foods and beverages.
To know how to handle food properly, you can also explore other online options like Zipfoodhandler. Zipfoodhandler Features the HACCP Food Safety Training Manual that helps you learn everything you need to know about food safety.
If you are hiring catering services, ensure that the food handlers are certified professionals and know the rules of the game.
Steps to Food Safety
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends following four simple steps at home-
Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill. These can help protect you and your loved ones from food poisoning.
Here's how to follow the guidelines-
1. Wash Your Hands and Surfaces Often
It is critical to often wash your hands and surfaces, like countertops and cutting boards, when handling food. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds. Particularly make sure to wash them after handling raw food items. You should also clean all surfaces that have come in contact with raw food using a tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water solution.
2. Avoid Cross-contamination
One of the most important things you can do to ensure food safety is to avoid cross-contamination. Cross-contamination occurs if bacteria from raw meat or poultry comes in contact with other food, leading to foodborne illness.
Keeping raw and cooked food separate using separate cutting boards and utensils, and ensure that anything coming into contact with raw meat is thoroughly washed before it comes into contact with other food. Cross-contamination is one of the leading reasons for foodborne illnesses, so it's important to take steps to avoid it.
3. Cook at the Right Temperature
Cooking at the right temperature is important for food safety. Temperatures that are too low or too high can cause foodborne illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends cooking meat, poultry, and fish at a safe minimum internal temperature. Using a meat thermometer helps check your food's internal temperature. Place the probe in the thickest part of the meat.
If food is not cooked to the proper temperature, bacteria can grow and cause food poisoning. To ensure food safety, cook meat to an internal temperature of 145 F, and poultry to an internal temp of 165 F.
4. Refrigerate and Freeze Food Properly
As mentioned above, food spoils quicker in warmer temperatures, so it is important to refrigerate and freeze food properly to ensure food safety. In addition, bacteria multiplies faster in the "Danger Zone" (between 40 F and 140 F). It is therefore important to keep food out of this temperature range.
Food items should be refrigerated at 40 F or below, and frozen at 0 F or below. Make sure you properly refrigerate and freeze food to avoid contamination and the threat of foodborne illnesses. Here are some tips-
- Keep your fridge at 40 F or below to prevent bacteria from growing.
- Wrap meat and poultry tightly before placing them in the freezer.
- Don't thaw food on the counter -- instead, use the microwave, refrigerator, or cold water.
Foodborne illnesses are a growing concern for many families
Zipfoodhandler will show you how to keep your family safe from foodborne illnesses by following a few simple steps