While many of us assume that food poisoning only occurs when dining out, the truth is that a percentage of all foodborne illnesses occurring each year are from home cooking. Home cooking involves family meals, potlucks, catering for events such as birthdays, special occasions, and also picnics, barbeques and foods prepared when camping. There is a potential risk for foods to be cross-contaminated and held in the Danger Zone. One of my students attended a dinner held at her mother-in-law’s home for 20 family members. Turkey was served and all twenty members became ill from Salmonella. The student ended up in hospital for 3 weeks! Another student left hamburger in a cooler overnight when camping in a national park. When he and his friends went to cook the hamburger for dinner the following night, they noticed that it was lukewarm. The ice had either melted in the cooler during the hot sunny day or someone forgot to place ice in the cooler. Disaster followed after consuming the cooked hamburgers as the group became sick. They had to get medical help due to severe vomiting and nausea.
Here are some simple tips to remember when preparing food at home.
1. Keep cold foods cold either at 4 C or -18 C. Bacteria multiply fastest in the Danger Zone between 4 C or 60 C.
2. Always watch the shelf-life of foods because bacteria such as Listeria can multiply in the refrigerator so follow the Code Date.
3. You may want to wash your raw chicken in the sink but this is not a good idea. Studies have found that you are splashing bacteria onto the sink, worktops or nearby dishes which only increases cross-contamination. It is always important to sanitize a sink when used for food preparation.
4. Store raw foods separately from cooked foods. For example, store raw meat in a sealed container in the bottom of your refrigerator. Blood will not drip onto other foods which prevents cross-contamination.
5. Use separate knives and cutting boards when preparing raw meats and other foods and don’t forget to wash your hands frequently.
6. Follow the correct cooking temperatures of 74 C to ensure that meat is not pink and no raw juices or blood is running out of the cooked meat.
If you follow these tips, your home food preparation will be safe and your risk of developing foodborne illness will be reduced.