It’s not long now until the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla and many people are planning to celebrate with family, friends and neighbours. Perhaps you’ll be quaffing coronation cocktails or tucking into the official coronation quiche of spinach, broad beans and tarragon. Maybe you’ll be having a street party with buffet food or enjoying a delicious afternoon tea. Whatever your plans are, please don’t forget these basic food safety guidelines in your excitement.
1. Make sure your hands are clean
Just because we’re no longer testing for coronavirus on a regular basis, it doesn’t mean it and other viruses and bacteria are not around such as staphylococcus and campylobacter. To guard against this, make sure that you wash your hands before preparing and touching food. You can also make hand sanitiser available for guests on a buffet table, for example.
2. Don’t overfill the fridge
Having a refrigerator that’s full-to-bursting makes it harder for cold air to circulate. This means that food, milk, cream and fruit juices won’t stay as cool as needed. A top tip is to ensure that food that requires chilling is kept in the fridge but remove wine and beer and put them in a bucket of water filled with ice cubes.
3. Keep food refrigerated for as long as possible
On the subject of fridges, try to keep food in the fridge for as long as possible. This especially applies to meat, poultry, shellfish and any foods containing cream. Another golden rule for ensuring fridge temperatures remain at 5°C or below is to make sure you don’t put hot or warm food into the fridge. Let it cool down first.
4. Food safety and salad greens
Lettuce and other salad greens account for 22% of food poisoning outbreaks. If at all possible prepare salads yourself by carefully washing lettuce and other greens. If you are using a prepared bag of salad leaves, be sure to check the ‘use-by’ date. This is because cut leaves can become damp and stick to the plastic bag forming an area where bacteria can have a party all of their own!
5. The difference between ‘Use-by’ and ‘Best Before’ dates
If a product has a ‘Best Before’ date, this relates to the quality of an item. Provided that they have been stored correctly, eating biscuits or crisps that are past their ‘Best Before’ date are unlikely to cause you harm. They might only have lost their flavour or crunchiness.
‘Use-by’ dates relate to food safety and are a different matter altogether. You should not eat products beyond their use-by dates – even if they look and smell OK.
6. Food safety rules around reheating
If you’re serving hot food that you’ve prepared earlier, never reheat it more than once and ensure that it’s piping hot before you serve it. Don’t ever feel under pressure to reduce cooking times just because there’s a queue of people waiting.
If the weather’s fine and you’re firing up the barbecue, please ensure that burgers, chicken, sausages etc. are cooked all the way through – not charred on the outside and pink on the inside.
7. A word about food allergies
Don’t forget that if you’re catering for a large number of people, there are likely to be people with different food allergies or dietary requirements. If you’re providing a buffet, label products clearly and try not to mix vegetarian/vegan products with those containing meat. Most people with food allergies will ask what products contain, so make sure you’re aware – or provide labelling.
8. How long can I leave food out?
Chilled food can be kept at a temperature of 8°C for 4 hours maximum. This is because after this time food poisoning bacteria can begin to form. Also, nobody really fancies curly egg mayo sandwiches or limp lettuce, do they?
OK – food safety lecture over!
Enjoy the Coronation Bank Holiday weekend, whatever you plan to do.