Food safety resolutions for 2017

At this time of the year everyone is focused on resolutions to get fit, lose weight or exercise more. Unfortunately most resolutions fall by the wayside, and quite quickly.

Resolutions tackling food hygiene practices are unique, and can support positive eating experiences.

They are easy to practice and can endure for a lifetime.

Resolution 1. Wash your hands before preparing food
First and foremost, practice good hygienic habits. Maintain an effective handwashing routine – and that’s not just a quick rinse under some tepid running water. This means washing your hands with soap for at least 10‒20 seconds under running water.

Always wash your hands after handling raw foods, then between handling different foods.

Resolution 2. Cook food correctly and use a food thermometer
Cooking is one way to make foods safe. Food should be cooked until its centre temperature reaches at least 70‒75°C. This ensures that foodborne pathogens are destroyed during the cooking process.

There is no easy way to determine if a food is sufficiently heated. Colour is not a good indicator. Terms like steaming or piping hot have no meaning, and folklore such as cooking meat or poultry until ‘the juices run clear’ is totally flawed.

So a food thermometer is an essential food safety tool in the kitchen.          

Resolution 3. Wash all your fruits and vegetables before eating
Simple. Wash all vegetables and fruit just before preparing and/or eating them. Washing doesn’t guarantee that all vegetables and fruit are free from harmful organisms, but it will reduce the risk.

Resolution 4. Keep cold foods cold
Your refrigerator is your best friend. A properly maintained fridge will ensure that harmful organisms are restricted in their ability to grow in foods. But remember Listeria monocytogenes can grow and multiply even in the refrigerator.

Always check use-by and best-before dates, ensure your follow the 2hr/4hr rule* and consume leftovers in 24‒48 hours.

Resolution 5. Avoid risky foods
The trend towards raw and minimally processed foods brings with it risks, especially to our vulnerable consumers: the young, elderly, immunosuppressed, and pregnant women. Eating animal foods that have not been processed or cooked sufficiently to destroy the pathogens is risky. Raw eggs, raw fish, and raw milk all have the potential to be contaminated with foodborne pathogens.

Enjoying a meal with friends is one of life’s delights. Resolving to follow some simple rules enables us to minimise our food safety risks.

*As a rule of thumb, if a food is held at ambient (room) temperatures for under 2 hours it is safe to eat or return to the refrigerator. For a food stored between 24 hours at ambient temperatures it is ok to consume straight away. If the storage time is over 4 hours, throw it away.