Foodborne illnesses are commonly experienced by people worldwide despite their being preventable. An annual survey by WHO projected that nearly one in every 10 persons around the world is becoming ill due to consuming contaminated food. Home is one of the primary locations that cause foodborne illnesses, and every person in the household plays a significant role in applying food safety practices.
Food contamination is mainly caused by a lack of knowledge about food safety and unsafe food practices such as poor hygiene and improper handling. These could increase the possibility of getting foodborne illnesses at home. However, foodborne illnesses can be prevented by implementing food safety at home.
What is food safety?
Food safety refers to handling, preparing, and storing food to reduce the risk of individuals becoming ill from foodborne illnesses. It starts from selecting the product at the grocery store to storing the cooked food or leftovers. The practice of food safety can be as simple as washing your hands regularly to storing food at the right temperature.
Practicing food safety is not just about keeping food clean; it also helps to protect high-risk individuals within the household due to their vulnerable immune systems, such as the elderly, children, and pregnant women. Minor food contamination might result in diarrhea, cramps, nausea, fever, and vomiting. Furthermore, foodborne illnesses could have adverse and long-term effects such as long-lasting disability, cancer, and even death. Therefore, it is best to start implementing food safety at home.
Tips on food safety
One of the most efficient ways of reducing the risk of getting foodborne illnesses is to prevent cross-contamination by washing your hands for 20 seconds regularly. Based on a study by Sonia Morya et al. (2020), consistent handwashing before food preparation showed a protective effect on decreasing foodborne illness at home. Apart from that, you can also implement other simple practices to protect yourself from foodborne illnesses:
Clean the kitchen area and food items
All food preparation surfaces and equipment should be washed and sanitized. Make sure to wash vegetables and fruits before peeling or cutting to prevent contamination, as the outer part might contain dirt or bacteria. According to Hadeel Kadhim Turk et al. (2020), washing vigorously three times will reduce the number of bacteria present on the vegetable.
Separate raw and cooked food items
Raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs should be kept separate from ready-to-eat or cooked foods. As much as possible, you should use a different cutting board for food items; one for meat, poultry, and seafood, and another for fruits and vegetables. Do not serve cooked food on a plate that has been used for raw food items before washing it. You should also separate food items because raw food may contain harmful bacteria that could be transferred into cooked food.
Use a food container or resealable plastic bag inside the refrigerator when you marinate your food. Marinades that have been used contain juices from raw food items. As such, it is not recommended to reuse marinades as a sauce unless you bring it to a boil first.
Cooking food at the correct temperature and for the appropriate amount of time will ensure that any potentially harmful bacteria are killed. The minimum internal temperature required for food varies between 65 degrees Celsius to 75 degrees Celsius. However, if you are in doubt, cook food until it has reached the internal temperature of 70 degrees Celsius.
Keep food at a safe temperature
Do not leave cooked food out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Instead, you should store these and other perishable foods in the refrigerator quickly with a minimum temperature of 4 degrees Celsius to avoid bacteria from multiplying.
Select fresh or safely processed food items
Pick fresh food that has minimal damage or bruising to it. Only buy items that are refrigerated or laid out on a thick bed of ice. Use your sense of sight, smell, and touch to select fresh produce. For example, when picking a fish, use your sight to check its eyes; they should be clear, plump, shiny, and not sunken or cloudy. The smell should be fresh and not smell like rotten fish. Feel if the flesh springs back when it is touched. Ensure that the packaging is not damaged and has not passed its expiration date for processed foods.
Foodborne illnesses can be minimized by practicing food safety at home. It can start with a simple practice of good hygiene and keeping your food items clean. Implementing these easy steps at home might save you and your family from foodborne illnesses.
If you would like to know more about food safety, Life Management Science Labs’ (LMSL) Household Management Science Labs features research-based content such as courses, certifications, podcasts, and other learning materials. The content is based on research by Institute for Life Management Science and aims to provide science and practice-based solutions to everyday problems in a household. Visit the Household Management Science Labs today.
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