Do you believe that food poisoning is 100% preventable? All you need do is to stick to some techniques involved in proper handling of food before consumption. This technique has to do with a whole number of routines that should be followed to prevent health hazard.
According to the W.H.O and CDC in the USA alone, annually, there are 76 million cases of foodborne illness leading to 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths. It is therefore important to keep every food that we consume absolutely safe and free from pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, fungus and mold.
To put this to use effectively, 5 principles have been put in place by W.H.O to ensure the proper handling, storage, preparation of food before consumption. They include;
- Ensure food contaminated with pathogensis not consumed by people or pets.
- Separate raw and cooked foods to avoid contaminating the cooked foods.
- Cook foods for the appropriate length of time and temperature to kill pathogens.
- Store food at the proper temperature.
- Use safe waterand raw materials
To prevent contamination of food with pathogens, the following hygiene techniques must be put in place by food handlers:
Personal hygiene: food handlers should ensure their personal hygiene does not make food unsafe in any way. Practicing proper hygiene techniques also shows customers that their wellbeing has been considered and may encourage business.
- Avoid cooking when you have any of the following disease or infection such as cough, runny nose or nasal discharge.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before cooking.
- Cover your head to prevent hair from getting into food.
- Keep fingernails clean, trimmed and short with no nail polish.
- Move away from food if you need to sneeze.
- After using the toilet, wash your hands with soap and warm water; also dry it with paper towel before handling food again.
- Removing jewelry e.g. wristwatch, rings, chain or bands before cooking as these can harbor bacteria.
- Wear a clean apron over your clothes when handling food
- Avoid covering your mouth with your hands when you sneeze, if inevitable wash with soap before contact with food again.
Environmental hygiene: food handlers must ensure that the environment in which the food is prepared is kept safe or free of pathogens.
- Ensure all work surfaces are thoroughly clean and free of dirt
- Proper lighting and ventilation is necessary to aid easy sorting of food
- Ensure that the wash hand basin or sink is free of dirt
- Keep all chemicals, insecticides or pesticides away from food items
- Ensure your freezer or fridge wear food is stored is properly cleaned.
- Garbage bins must have tight fitting lids and must be kept clean.
- Use paper towels whenever possible, dishcloths and towels can carry bacteria.
- Protect food preparation areas and food from pests, insects and pets.
Food hygiene: It is important to ensure that food is served and displayed in a manner that it will be safe for consumption. Avoid serving unsafe foods by following the following principles:
- Ensure stable water supply
- Ensure the use of table and cooking utensils that has been properly cleaned.
- Cover food containers with appropriate and tight fitted lids to prevent contamination.
- Wear gloves and use tongs when handling food utensils.
- Perishable foods such as milk, eggs, meats and poultry should be refrigerated to prevent spoilage or contamination if exposed.
- Use separate cutting boards and knives for each type of food, for example raw meat, fish, vegetables and cooked foods.
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly, especially if it will be eaten raw.
- Separate raw and cooked foods to prevent contaminating the cooked foods.
- You should be able to easily identify perishable goods and non-perishable ones.
- Effectively sort out and separate cooked and raw foods.
- Apply effective measures e.g. drying salting, pasteurization, freezing or refrigerating to preserve foods for a long time.
- Sort and carefully label raw and dry foods to appropriate containers.
- Keep warmed/hot food above 60 degrees Celsius in ovens.
- Keep food cold by refrigerating at 5 degree Celsius.
- Food should be frozen at minus 15 degrees Celsius or less.
Other ways to keep your food hygeinic are;
- Always keep high risk foods at the following temperatures:
- Above 60 °C for foods such as roasts, stews, casseroles, soups and curries
- Below 5 °C for foods including sliced meats, desserts, dairy products, sandwiches and salads.
- Always defrost frozen food in the fridge or in a microwave oven set on ‘defrost’. Defrosting food on the bench top can be unsafe, and increase bacteria growth in foods as they defrost
- Cook and serve food immediately – never leave high-risk food out at room temperature
- If reheating food make sure it is reheated until steaming hot.
- Do not store food too long, even in the fridge. Keep for a maximum of 3 days
- Water used for all food preparation and cleaning purposes must be of drinking quality.
- All raw materials used must be kept free of pathogens inorder to prevent food poisoning