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Don’t forget about food safety!

Sandra Lapajne BASc, CPHI(C)

With the holiday season fast approaching, many of us are busy planning our celebrations and gatherings. Delicious food and yummy snacks are often part of our celebrations and it’s important that we don’t overlook food safety as we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season.

Thousands of Canadians get food poisoning every year from food that has not been stored, prepared or cooked properly. By following some simple rules in the kitchen, you can help prevent foodborne illness from happening.

Clean

Clean your hands, surfaces and equipment. Do it often and do it well! Bacteria can get onto hands, cutting boards, knives, dishcloths, countertops and the food itself.

Separate

Do not contaminate your food! Cross-contamination occurs when bacteria spread from one food item to another. This can easily happen when cooked or ready-to-eat foods come into contact with raw meat or other uncooked foods, dirty hands or contaminated utensils. Keep raw and ready-to-eat foods separate!

Thaw

Never thaw foods at room temperature! If you do, the food thaws from the outside and the surface of the food, where most of the bacteria would be found, would be at room temperature, while the middle is still frozen.

The safest ways to thaw frozen foods are in the refrigerator at 4°C (40°F), in a sink of cold running water, or in the microwave oven.

Cook

Cook food to a high enough temperature and keep it out of the danger zone! The danger zone, where bacteria grow rapidly, is between 4°C (40°F) and 60°C (140°F).

To properly cook meat, poultry, fish or eggs, heat them to a high enough temperature for a long enough time to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying. Use a food probe thermometer to measure the inside temperature of cooked foods to check that they are cooked thoroughly.

After cooking, keep hot food at 60°C (140°F) or hotter until served.

Serve hot food while hot, or put it in the fridge or freezer as soon as possible once cooled (within two hours of preparation).

Chill

Keep cold foods cold! This will reduce the risk of foodborne illness because cold temperatures slow down the growth of bacteria. Be sure to keep food at 4°C (40°F) or colder in the refrigerator and -18°C (0°F) or colder in the freezer.

Leftovers

To store leftovers safely, cut and debone the meat from large cooked birds. Refrigerate the meat as soon as  possible in small containers for rapid and uniform cooling.

Make sure that cooked foods don’t come into contact with food that hasn’t been cooked.

Use refrigerated leftovers as soon as possible, ideally within two or three days.

This holiday season, be sure to enjoy the delicious and festive foods, just don’t forget about food safety!