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This literature will serve as a guideline for readers in food handling. Step-by-step processes, ranging from food selection to storage of leftovers, are introduced to inform readers how to avoid food poisoning.
Catching a flu is one of the symptoms of food-borne illnesses, more commonly known as food poisoning. Oftentimes, most individuals are not aware that they are suffering from food-borne illnesses. They would usually assume that they merely have the common flu.
It has been predicted that about seven million Americans will suffer from food-borne illnesses this year of 2012. The reason for such forecast can be traced to the formation and reproduction of millions of bacteria, which cannot be detected by our sense of sight, smell nor taste, caused by improper food handling. The reproduction of these bacteria can span only a few hours from our initial contact with the food.
The large number of bacteria present in the food consumed by individuals can increase the risk of getting sick from food-borne illnesses. An estimate of 85% of the cases which deal with food-borne illnesses could have been avoided if food was handled properly, avoiding the consuming of large amounts of bacteria. A detailed elaboration is presented in this literature to inform readers how to prepare and handle food properly in order to avoid food-borne illness.
The safety of foods at home starts at the grocery store. It will depend on the quality the grocery store will provide, and how one handles food after acquiring them.
Planning one’s purchases is an essential step, especially when it comes to the preservation of perishable goods such as meat, poultry, seafood, and dairy products; knowing how long types of food will last will help avoid risks of getting sick from food illnesses.
Meat, poultry, seafood, and dairy products should be refrigerated within two hours of purchase (one hour maximum in hot weather) so that the bacteria present will not multiply and cause food poisoning.
It is important to have separate bags for meat and poultry products to prevent their juices from dripping onto other foods. The plastics containing these products should also be sturdy, not too thin that they may break while in transit.
It is also advisable to separate foods that will not be cooked, foods such as fruits and vegetables, from frozen goods and dairy.
It is recommended that one buys packaged pre-cooked foods only if packaging is sound. Always check the packaging of food before buying to ensure this.
Purchasing of products labeled “Keep Refrigerated” is wise if they are stored in a refrigerated case at the grocery store.
When buying food, always check expiry or best-before dates, especially for those kinds that expire quickly. If none is depicted in the item, ask the store clerk for the information you need.
The practice of proper food storage prolongs shelf-life of products. Proper food storage also preserves the nutrients of food as well as the safety of food from bacteria.
Foods, especially perishable foods, that are stored for a long period of time will gradually spoil and lose their nutritional value, so it is recommended that one check expiry or best-before dates before placing food items in one’s grocery cart.
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Individuals must make certain that their refrigerators are well-maintained, and clean. Refrigerators should maintain a temperature of not higher than 40 degrees F, otherwise food will spoil. Frozen foods’ quality of flavor and nutritional values are better preserved if the freezer is kept at a temperature of 0 degree F or below.
Raw meat and poultry must be separated from other foods, especially from those foods that require no further cooking. Poultry and ground meat can only be kept in the refrigerator for one to two days without spoiling, while other meat items last for three to four days. Canned goods and other shelf-stable items should be stored in a cool and dry place above freezing temperature and below 85 degree F temperature.
Cleanliness is the first critical step in safe food preparation.
Hands should be washed thoroughly with soap and water before and after handling any food. Utensils, cutting boards and work areas should also be cleaned prior and after preparing raw meat and/or poultry products with them.
Frozen foods should never be thawed at room temperature. They should instead be defrosted safely in a refrigerator. One may thaw food in the microwave only before cooking.
It is essential that raw meat of animal origins be cooked on an internal temperature of 160 degrees F (180 degrees F for poultry). A meat thermometer should be used to check the temperature of meat and poultry. If a meat thermometer is not available, one may check meat visually by observing the juices and the meat. Juices should run clear and meat should not be pink. Food must not be partially cooked before eating because bacteria may still preside in the uncooked parts.
In handling heat, there must be a constant heat source. Oven temperature must not be set under 325 degrees in cooking meat, poultry, seafood and/ or dairy-based products. In microwaving food, it must be contained in a covered dish where it can turn freely.
Errors can be made during serving and handling cooked foods wherein the safety of individuals consuming the meals may be endangered. Hands should be washed thoroughly with hot soapy water before serving foods in order to avoid transferring bacteria. Dishes must be placed on clean plates. Similarly, utensils must also be clean. Foods should never sit open at room temperature for longer than two hours or one hour in hot weather. When serving hot foods, they should be held above 140 degrees F in temperature while cold foods should be kept cool.
When handling leftovers, cleanliness and temperature control are critical.
Hands must be washed before handling leftovers and clean utensils must be used. Leftovers must be refrigerated or frozen in small, covered, shallow containers within two hours after cooking. To ensure rapid and even cooling, containers must be left with airspace around them in the refrigerator.
When reheating leftovers, cover and reheat well, making sure heat is distributed evenly. Sauces, soups and gravies should be heated to a boil; all other products should be reheated at a temperature of 165 degrees F. Foods that are spoiled or even those that seem spoiled when smelled or tasted must be disposed immediately because food spoilage bacteria may grow inside the refrigerator.
Most food will remain safe and edible inside the refrigerator for about four days without spoiling but it is recommended that highly perishable goods, such as stuffing and gravy, be consumed within one to two days of storage. If the food’s edibility or spoilage is in doubt, it is better to throw it away than risk food poisoning.