Different chemical substances, pathogens, constantly developing technologies and genetically modified food processing may concern people. However, these factors are all strictly regulated to prevent foodborne illness.
Consumed food is key to health and ideal development. For that reason, maintaining food quality and safety should be a priority during storage and preparation as well.
The general rules of preparing food apply at home, as well as within the hospitality industry and catering in order to maintain optimal quality of meals. Bacteria and fungi may multiply more easily in food products and ingredients that were not stored and prepared properly, thus can lead to serious illnesses. Consuming safe food is especially especially important for children, pregnant women, the elderly and ill people.
Principal rules of safe food preparation
Most cases of foodborne illnesses are the results of unproper food preparation. Proper methods of preparing meals at home, hospitality business and catering is of great importance in preventing these cases.
The principal rules of safe food preparation:
- use of suitable ingredients and clean water (drinking-water safety);
- maintaining overall cleanness of the kitchen and tools;
- use of the proper handwashing technique;
- distancing prepared meals and raw ingredients from each other;
- preparing food at proper temperatures;
- quick cooling and storage at cold temperature.
Rules of food preparation and cooling
Preparing meals on proper temperatures decreases the risk of food poisoning since high temperature kills most of the bacteria.
When preparing meat, the freshness of the ingredient is crucial, as raw meat is an ideal cultural medium for bacteria. Slices or pieces of meat should be cooked through, without any remaining pink parts in the middle (except for some special meals like steak, where only the finest quality of ingredients should be used). To check the readiness, cut or pierce the piece of meat. After preparation, all meat-based meals must be kept hot.
Leftover meals should be cooled quickly, covered and stored in a refrigerator or freezer. The cold leftover should not remain stored more then 1-2 days.
When reheating food, all parts of the leftover meal should be properly warmed up. Avoid reheating meals and especially meat-based foods more than one time.
Rules of food storage
The temperature between 5-60 °C counts as a dangerous temperature zone in food safety, in which circumstance bacteria may multiply well. In colder or warmer environments, the multiplication slows down, bacteria may even die.
When storing and preparing food, aim to leave ingredients in this temperature zone for the shortest period possible. It surely does not mean in general, that if a meal reaches this temperature zone it becomes unsuitable for consumption. Different bacteria have various multiplication period, so meals left on room temperature for some hours may be consumed, but be always cautious with leftovers.
After purchase, food and ingredients should be put in the refrigerator or the freezer. Food that requires freezing should be stored at or below -15 °C, and be thawed in the refrigerator, not on the kitchen counter or in the sink. This rule is even more important at hot temperatures during summer.
The immune system of the human body is usually ready to fight the bacteria originating from the food, therefore consumption of food not properly stored may not necessarily be a risk for a healthy individual. For children, pregnant women, elderly and ill people, however, the following rules of food preparation and storage apply.
Bacteria may easily be transported from surfaces or one food to another. This is called cross pollution. It occurs more easily if raw and ready ingredients, and different meals get close to each other. The bacteria can "travel” from one medium to another on hand, kitchenware and other tools as well.
A common source of cross pollution in the kitchen is raw meat, especially raw chicken meat, as it is an ideal cultural medium for bacteria.
Cross pollution of food can be avoided by separating raw and ready food and ingredients. Ready meals should be distanced from raw meat on the whole perimeter of the kitchen.
Do not use the same knife, bowl or any other tools for preparing different meals. The tools, bowls and devices should be properly washed before and after every use. The wipes used in the kitchen should be washed frequently, especially when preparing raw meat.
Role of hand wash in preventing pollution
To prevent pollution, using the proper handwashing techniques is of great importance.
Wash your hands:
- before starting to prepare food;
- before and after touching raw meat, fish, egg and muddy vegetables;
- after using the bathroom;
- after blowing your nose;
- after touching an animal or its accessories;
- after touching or taking care of wounds.
You will find more information about the proper handwashing techniques HERE.