Food safety refers to the conditions and practices that preserve the quality of food. These practices prevent contamination and foodborne illnesses, which are infections or irritations caused by food or beverages that contain harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses or chemicals.
Food can be contaminated in many different ways. Some food products may already contain bacteria or parasites and these germs can be spread during the packaging process if the food products are not handled properly. Improperly cooking, preparing or storing food can also cause contamination.
Water can also be a source of foodborne illness. I suggest, if possible, to check the water quality, or use a good quality water filter and boil water before use.
The Home Food Safety website gives tips on cooking temperature, how to clean fruits and vegetables and what we need to be aware of when shopping.
For example, do you know the difference between the use by / expiration date and the sell by date? Or did you know that eggs, when stored in the refrigerator, can still be used for up to 3 weeks after the sell by date, and milk for up to 7 days after opening, but the product should never be consumed after the use by date?
The website gives four easy steps to help reduce foodborne illness.
First, wash your hands often — especially before washing produce and before starting cooking.
Second, keep raw meats and ready-to-eat foods separate. When the juice from raw meats, or the germs from unclean objects, accidentally touches cooked or ready-to-eat foods such as fruits or salads, cross contamination occurs.
Third, cook at the correct temperature. For example, fish should be cooked at around 145°F, ground beef and pork at 160°F, and turkey and chicken at 165°F.
And fourth, food needs to get hot, and stay hot. Heat kills germs. And for chilled food, it’s important to put it in the fridge right away.
The two-hour rule states that foods should be put in the fridge or freezer within two hours of cooking or after purchasing from the store, and cold foods should be kept at 40°F or below.
The free “Is My Food Safe?” app can help you to learn more about food safety, with tips, cooking temperatures, and even recipes.
This year, one in six Americans will get sick from food poisoning. So please do make sure to check these resources and keep your family safe!
Ayda Ersoy is a nutrition and fitness director at The Diet Doc Hawaii. She can be reached at DietDocHawaii.com, Ayda@DietDocHawaii.com or (808) 276-6892