Each year the Food Standards Agency organises Food Safety Week (FSW). Last year (2013) the theme was Kitchen Check. Although this was held 10-16 June 2013, you can still take part.
Most people don’t believe the food they cook at home can make them ill, but meals prepared at home can be source of food poisoning. Kitchen Check is a simple tool that helps you find out if your kitchen habits are putting you, or your family and friends, at risk of food poisoning.
Kitchen Check helps you to go through each stage of the food preparation and cooking process to find out how well you are doing or whether there are things you can change to help protect you and those you care about from food poisoning.
Interactive Online Kitchen Check
Take the Interactive Kitchen Check. Find out if your kitchen habits are safe or if you are putting yourself and others at risk. After taking the Kitchen Check online you will have the option to share the tool via Twitter and Facebook.
- Hands are one of the main ways germs are spread. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before preparing and handling food, cooking and after touching the bin, going to the toilet, handling pets or handling raw food.
- Wash or change dish cloths, tea towels, sponges and oven gloves regularly and let them dry before you use them again. Dirty, damp cloths are the perfect place for bacteria to breed.
Avoiding Cross Contamination
- Cross contamination occurs when harmful germs are spread between food, surfaces and equipment. Help to prevent this by removing clutter that you don’t need and washing worktops before and after food preparation.
- Always use a chopping board. Wash the board and other utensils in hot, soapy water when you’ve finished using them and in between preparing raw foods (meat, poultry, eggs, fish and raw vegetables) and ready-to-eat food. Better still, use a separate chopping board for each type of food.
- Make sure your fridge is set between 0 and 5°C, using a fridge thermometer to check. This is to prevent harmful germs from growing.
- Don’t overfill your fridge. This allows air to circulate and maintains the set temperature.
- Store raw meat and poultry at the bottom of the fridge and properly wrap or cover it to avoid raw juices contaminating other foods.
Cooking Food Thoroughly
- Cook food thoroughly until it is steaming hot in the middle. This will kill any harmful bacteria that may be present.
Understanding ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates
- ‘Use by’ dates are typically found on perishable products (dairy, meat and fish) and are based on scientific testing to determine how long these foods will stay safe. After that date, food could be unsafe to eat even if it is correctly stored and looks and smells fine.
- ‘Best before’ dates are used on foods that have a longer shelf life and tell us how long the food will be at its best. After that date it may be safe to eat, but its flavour and texture might have deteriorated.
- The exception to this rule is eggs which have a ‘best before’ rather than a ‘use by’ date. Providing the eggs are cooked thoroughly, they can be eaten a day or two after their ‘best before’ date but not longer than this.
- Check the ‘use by’ dates on the food in your fridge on a regular basis and be sure to use (eat, cook or freeze) food before its ‘use by’ to help you avoid throwing food away unnecessarily.
- Once food with a ‘use-by’ date has been opened, follow any storage instructions such as ‘eat within two days of opening’.
Using Leftovers Safely
- Using up leftovers can be a good way of making a meal go further.
- If you are going to store leftovers in the fridge, cool leftovers as quickly as possible (ideally within 90 minutes) cover them well, get them in the fridge and eat them up within two days.
- If you are going to freeze them, cool them before putting them in your freezer, to minimise temperature fluctuation in the freezer. Once foods are in the freezer, they can be safely stored there forever – but the quality will deteriorate so it’s best to eat them within three months.
- Make sure you defrost leftovers properly first. Defrost them in the fridge, or in the microwave if you intend to cook them straightaway.
- Eat leftovers within 24 hours of defrosting and do not refreeze. The only exception to this is if you are defrosting raw food, such as meat or poultry, once you have cooked this it can be refrozen.
- Cook leftovers until steaming hot throughout.
- Don’t reheat leftovers more than once.