Covid 19 restrictions
The majority of people are now working from home, self-isolating or practicing social distancing to keep themselves safe from catching coronavirus and to protect the NHS. This coupled with the new Coronavirus Legislation resulting in the closure of restaurants, coffee shops, bars and social venues with only limited takeaway or delivery options available, has resulted in a huge increase in eating at home.
The importance of hand washing
One of the main controls which can help to prevent you catching coronavirus, is washing your hands frequently and thoroughly for 20 seconds especially after sneezing, coughing and touching your face, but this will also help keep your family safe from food poisoning as well.
Make sure you wash your hands before and after preparing food, after going to the toilet, handling rubbish, touching your phone etc. as this will help to avoid a nasty bout of food poisoning. This can be extremely inconvenient and give you and your family symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea, but can also be fatal for vulnerable people such as the elderly and the young.
To help to encourage your family especially children to wash their hands more thoroughly and frequently make sure there is soap and hand drying towels/paper at every sink in your house. Remember a bar of soap is equally as good as liquid soap and usually cheaper and could be more readily available at the moment following the recent panic buying of such items.
Top Food Safety Tips
With the majority of food poisoning cases thought to come from preparing food at home read my top food safety tips to help keep you and your family safe :
- Wash your hands, and the board and knife you use to prepare raw meat, thoroughly with hot water and detergent and preferably in the dishwasher
Meat and vegetable preparation
- Do not wash chicken as chicken juice could splash on work surfaces and equipment and raw meat juice could cross contaminate other food.
- Prepare raw meat in a separate area or at a different time from other foods; and wear gloves as an extra precaution if you have some
- Store raw meat on a low shelf in the bottom of the fridge to prevent raw meat juices cross contaminating raw or ready to eat food.
- Check if salad and vegetables are prewashed, if not wash them thoroughly and/or peel before eating/cooking
Shelf life dates
- Check ‘USE BY’ dates on ready to eat and chilled food as this relates to food safety. Be careful if you have been buying large quantities of food in anticipation of being at home for long periods. Always store food with a ‘use by’ date in the fridge and DONOT eat food past it’s ‘use-by’ date
- Check ‘BEST BEFORE’ dates on tins, dried and packaged goods. This is a date which relates to the quality of the food so it may not taste as good but won’t make you ill, for example biscuits which are no longer crunchy. If tins are dented or blown; or packets are damaged or broken do not use them as the food inside may not be safe to eat.
- Only keep prepared food like cooked lasagne, curry, etc for a maximum of 3 days and it is a good idea to label containers with the date to use it by.
Defrosting and reheating food
- Defrost frozen food in the fridge rather than leaving out in the kitchen for long periods at warm temperatures as this could make the food unsafe to eat as it creates the ideal conditions for harmful bacteria to grow.
- Only reheat food once
- Be careful with cooked rice, if you are not eating it hot immediately after cooking, chill down in cold water and keep in the fridge for a maximum of 1 day. Reheat until it is steaming hot. Cooked rice is a high risk food and may contain toxins which could make you and your family very ill
- Cool food quickly by decanting into smaller portions, putting in containers in a sink with cold water and ice; or leaving in a cool place before putting in the fridge.
- Cook meat such as chicken, turkey, pork, minced beef and lamb thoroughly until it is piping hot and the juices run clear.
- If eating lamb or beef joints/steaks rare make sure that you sear or flash fry the outside at high temperatures to destroy any bacteria on the surface.
- Cook burgers thoroughly until the juices run clear and do not eat them rare
- Whenever you can follow the manufacturer’s instructions on cooking products particularly when microwaving and oven cooking as these time/temperature combinations will have been tested and verified to make sure the food is safe to eat.
- Frequently sanitise or disinfect food contact surfaces and equipment; and objects and surfaces in your kitchen that you touch with your hands to prevent cross contamination. The obvious ones are fridge handles, taps, etc. but don’t forget toaster and kettle handles, light switches, mobile phone chargers, plugs and anything else you can think of.
- Use disposable or washable cloths and change them frequently to help prevent cross contamination
- Use separate tea towels for in the kitchen and hand towels for washing hands to prevent cross contamination; and wash them frequently.
REMEMBER to be extra careful if you are preparing food for vulnerable children or adults who have underlying health conditions as food poisoning can be fatal.
Please enjoy this precious time at home either by yourself or with your close family and stay safe.