Happy New Year! Now that the Christmas decorations have been packed away for another year, we’re tired of turkey and sick of the sight of Christmas cake, many of us will be looking to 2014 as a fresh start. That generally means the making of New Year’s resolutions.
I’m just guessing, but I suspect that many of us will be aiming to lose weight, eat more healthily and do more exercise – which is great. We start with the very best of intentions, but let’s face it, after a fortnight of eating lettuce leaves several of us start to get back into our old habits.
Here are some resolutions which should help to make sure that the food you eat is safe. The great thing is that they don’t involve exercise or deprive you of the very foods you love!
Eating food before the ‘Use by’ date
Unlike ‘Best before’ dates, which generally refer to the quality of food, it’s not advisable to eat products which have exceeded their ‘Use by’ dates. When food packaging carries a ‘Use by’ date it is there for safety reasons. It usually means that the packaging contains food that can go off quickly – for example meat, fish, dairy products and prepared salads.
If you know that you won’t be able to eat a product by its ‘Use by’ date – don’t chance it! Look to see if it can be frozen instead.
Storing food properly
Most manufacturers include storage instructions on packaged food. Following those instructions will help to ensure that you enjoy food at its best. Remember: ‘Best before’ dates will only be accurate if the food is stored correctly – e.g. ‘refrigerate after use’ or ‘store in a cool, dry place.’
Following fridge etiquette
Obviously the first fridge rule is: “thou shalt not weigh more than thy refrigerator”, but beyond that there are a number of things you can do to keep the food in your fridge safe to eat. For instance, if a fridge is going to operate efficiently, it shouldn’t be packed to the gills – the cold air needs room to circulate. Ideal fridge temperature is between 0 and 4°C. Also, always ensure that food stored in the fridge is covered or wrapped appropriately. You don’t want juices from raw meat dripping onto other food, for example. If you’ve got leftovers from a hot meal, make sure that you cool them down as quickly as possible before covering them and placing them in the fridge – putting a hot dish into a fridge will raise the temperature.
Washing fruit and vegetables
It’s a good idea to wash fruit and vegetables before you eat or prepare them. This removes any bacteria that might be present. Remember the outbreak of food poisoning from bean sprouts? Better to spend a few seconds running produce under the tap than risk spending several hours running to the lavatory…..
Remembering to wash your hands…
… BEFORE preparing or handling food and AFTER using the toilet, touching pets, handling raw meat or poultry, coughing, sneezing, wiping your nose or licking your fingers.
Making sure food is cooked properly
If you’re cooking raw meat then ensure that it is cooked to the correct temperature for the right amount of time. Make sure that pork and chicken are cooked all the way through – no pink bits and the juices run clear. Minced meat and sausages and burgers which are made of processed meat should also be cooked all the way through. This is because there are several surfaces which could have been subject to contamination. In the case of joints of beef and lamb, these can be left rare in the centre, but should reach the appropriate temperature in order to kill any bacteria on the surface of the meat.
If you’re planning to reheat leftovers, this should only be done once and you should be sure that the food is piping hot before serving.
Frozen food should be thoroughly defrosted before cooking – unless the packaging states that the product can be cooked from frozen.
If you make the above your resolutions for 2014 then whatever you eat, you can be assured that you have taken every step to ensure that it’s safe.
If you’d like to find out more about food safety, why not take a look at our courses?