Sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO), World Health Day has been around since 1950. Each year, on April 7th, WHO celebrates by bringing awareness to various global health topics. This year, the topic is Food Safety.
You may be wondering why Food Safety is such a big deal. What you may not have known is that more than 200 known diseases are transmitted through food. Hepatitis, E. Coli and Salmonella are just a few examples. It’s a problem in both developed and developing countries, creates a strain on our health care system and even hurts the national economy and development of international trade.
Luckily, most foodborne illness is preventable with proper food handling techniques. Follow these 5 Key Tips to ensure your own Food Safety, provided by WHO.
1) Keep Clean
This ensures that microorganisms that you may encounter during your daily activities do not contaminate your food.
- Wash your hands before handling food and often during food prep
- Wash your hands after using the washroom and before eating
- Wash and sanitize all surfaces and equipment used during food prep
- Protect your kitchen from insects, pests and other animals
- Clean all surface (including your hands) that come into contact with raw meat or poultry
- Try singing “Happy Birthday” twice while washing hands to ensure you’ve washed them long enough
2) Seperate Raw and Cooked Food
Raw foods, especialy meat, poultry and seafood and their juices, can contain harmful microorganisms. These can be transferred to other foods during preperation or storage, resulting in cross contamination.
- Seperate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods
- Use seperate equipment and utensils for handling raw foods, this includes knives and cutting boards
- Store food in containers to avoid contact between raw and prepared foods
- Store meat, poultry and seafood below cooked or ready to eat foods to avoid cross contamintaion
- Store food in containers with lids
3) Cook Thoroughly
Proper cooking can kill almost all harmful microorganisms. Cooking food to a temperature of 70 ºC will help enure it’s safe for eating. High-risk foods that require special attention include minced meats, large joints of meat and whole poultry.
- Cook food thoroughly, especially meat, poultry, eggs and seafood
- Bring foods like soups and stews to a boil to make sure they’ve reached 70 ºC.
- Make sure that the juices from meat and poultry are clear, not pink.
- Use a thermometer if you’re not sure
- Reheat cooked food thoroughly
- When using a microwave make sure your food is cooked through, as microwaves can leave cold spots and cook food unevenly
4) Keep Food at a Safe Temperature
Microorganisms multiply very quickly when sotred at room temperature. By storing foods in the fridge or freezer or heating them up you can slow, or even stop, the growth of harmful microorganisms.
- Don’t leave cooked food at room temperature for more than 2 hours
- Refrigerate cooked and perishable foods as soon as possible
- Keep cooked food piping hot before serving
- Know when to get rid of food, don’t keep it too long in the refrigerator
- Do not thaw frozen food at room temperature
- If you use a microwave to thaw food, make sure to cook it promptly. This method of thawing can leave hot spots where bacteria can grow
- Leftovers should not be reheated more than once
- Thaw food in your refrigerator or other cool location
5) Use Safe Water and Raw Materials
Raw materials, including water and ice, may be contaminated prior to cooking. Toxic chemicals may be formed in damaged and mouldy food. Take a preemptive step by taking care when choosing raw materials. Remember to wash and peel certain fruits and veggies as well.
- Always use safe water or treat it to make it safe
- Select fresh and wholesome foods
- Choose foods that are processed safely
- Wash fruits and vegetable, especially if eaten raw
- Take note of expiry dates
- Safe water is not only important for drinking, but must be used for washing fruits and vegetables, cleaning cooking and eating utensils and washing hands
So, how many of these key tips are you already following? Hopefully the answer is most of them, but theres always room to improve, especially when it comes to your health.
World Health Organization (WHO). “Five Keys to Safer Food Manual.” 2006. who.org. PDF. April 2015.