Food is a significant part of our lives. It helps strengthen us and boost the body’s immunity. However, the same food can result in foodborne diseases if you do not properly handle, cook, or store them. The major cause of food poisoning is bacteria that are not visible to the naked eye. Hence, there is a need to follow the food safety rules in the kitchen at every stage of food preparation to avert food contamination. Let us delve into some kitchen food safety rules you must follow to prevent foodborne illnesses and other issues.
1. Wash Your Hands Properly and Regularly
Handwashing should be one of the first food safety rules in the kitchen you do before and after touching food. Hands are the best harboring grounds for bacteria; they continuously collect bacteria anytime you touch something. Washing your hands will help rid of any bacteria, thus, ensuring food safety.
To wash your hands, you require warm water, soap, and a paper towel. Soak your hands in the warm water, apply soap, and scrub your hands for at least 15 seconds, then rinse. Dry your hands using a paper towel to ensure you transfer no pathogens to the food. Avoid using dish towels to dry your hands because the dish towels harbor meat and juice residues from drying the utensils, which could cause food poisoning.
Wash your hands before touching any food; meat, fruits, vegetables, and others. Ensure you rewash your hands after handling foods such as raw meat and poultry before touching other foods. Doing so prevents the transfer of pathogens to other foods, which could cause one to suffer from food poisoning and mistake it for food allergies. Ensure you clean and dry your hands after handling the food.
You should avoid wearing rings, keeping long nails, or applying nail polish to ensure hand hygiene in the kitchen. All of these make it difficult to wash off bacteria and dirt.
2. Always Wash Produce
As one of the other food safety rules in the kitchen, ensure you clean your produce before you do anything with them. Produce such as fruits and vegetables can spread bacteria quickly and easily. Though the vendors might have washed the fruits and vegetables, it is a safe practice to rewash them in your kitchen.
If you like buying fruits and vegetables in bulk, do not wait to wash them when you want to use them. Wash them before storing them in the fridge. That helps prevent the transfer of pathogens and bacteria to other foods in the fridge, should they come into contact. Also, it makes it safe for kids, who often forget to wash fruits and consume them directly from the fridge.
For fruits with thick skins like the watermelons, you should wash them and dry them to avoid spreading bacteria to the inside when you cut them.
3. Avoid Washing Meat
Washing meat can be a food health hazard in the kitchen. Avoiding meat washing is one of the most ignored food safety rules in the kitchen that can help save a life. You might have come across many chefs washing raw meat before cooking. However, it does not mean what they are doing is right.
You should know that raw meat such as chicken carries all types of bacteria, including Salmonella, Listeria, and E. Coli. Washing meat facilitates the spread of the bacteria to other foods and surfaces in the kitchen through the water that splashes while washing the meat. Ingesting the bacteria causes food poisoning, which in worst cases can result in death.
4. Use Clean Water
Water is the commonest raw material in the kitchen. You need water to wash your hands, food, utensils and cook. Untreated water is not recommended in the kitchen as it can cause foodborne ailments.
As one of the food safety rules in the kitchen, you must ensure you use treated water for all kitchen processes. If you are using untreated borehole water, you can purchase and install a water treatment system to help purify your water and make it good for kitchen use.
5. Wash and Dis-Infect the Countertops and Sinks After Use
A countertop provides the best surface for placing all the foods you plan to cook. Also, you can use it to roll dough when preparing snacks like doughnuts. When constructing your kitchen, ensure you hire the best counter top contractors to put some multipurpose countertops that are easy to clean. You can approach a flooring contractor or concrete business for advice on the best kitchens countertops so that you get value for your money even as you work on having a kitchen that is easy to maintain hygienically.
As discussed earlier, raw meat, especially chicken, has bacteria such as Salmonella. Placing the meat on the kitchen surfaces or sink while preparing it for cooking can cause contamination. Therefore, thoroughly washing and sanitizing the kitchen surfaces and sinks are good food safety rules in the kitchen that you must practice to avoid food poisoning.
6. Clean Lids of Canned Foods
Most individuals buy canned foods from shop counters. The canned food range from fruits to meat. You will find that the canned foods have stayed on the counter for a long period, and given that they are in the open, the surfaces of the containers attract dust and bacteria.
As one of the food safety rules in the kitchen, you should ensure that you clean the lids of the canned food before opening them. The food in the can is clean, and opening without cleaning the lid could result in the canned food’s contamination.
7. Utilize Separate Chopping Boards for Raw Meat, Vegetables, and Fruits
Kitchen utensils such as the chopping boards should be more than one in the kitchen. Although using one chopping board to cut everything in the kitchen might lessen the cleaning job, it can be detrimental to you and your family as it can facilitate Salmonella spread.
As one of the surest food safety rules in the kitchen, ensure you utilize separate chopping boards for meat, fruits, and vegetables. Poultry meat has salmonella bacteria. Using the same chopping board to cube chicken and cut fruits and vegetables is not recommended. Use varying chopping boards. However, if you have one chopping board, you can start by chopping the fruits and the vegetables and then cleaning it before using it to chop poultry meat.
8. Do Not Let Foods Touch to Avert Cross-Contamination
Cross-contamination arises when bacteria spread from one product to another. Keeping meat, fruits, and vegetables together can result in cross-contamination. To avoid that, ensure you keep all foods separate.
Also, utensils can facilitate cross-contamination, which can happen when you put fruits or vegetables in a container holding meat or use the same knife and chopping board to cut meat, fruits, and vegetables. Do not let foods come into contact, and always make sure you thoroughly wash and sanitize the knife and the chopping board and dry them before utilizing them for something else.
9. Cover Your Hair
Your hair can seriously destroy your cooking or preparation of something in the kitchen. Hair can propagate germs and can fall into food and cause contamination. As one of the food safety rules in the kitchen, ensure you hold your hair up and cover it before you commence cooking. You can use a hat or a hairnet to prevent hair from falling into food.
10. Cook Food to Correct Temperatures
Cooking food to the required temperatures is crucial for killing bacteria that may be present in the food ingredients. As part of the food safety rules in the kitchen, the FDA has outlined the temperatures that various foods should attain while being cooked to avert food poisoning.
According to FDA, food is classified into four cooking classifications as follows.
165°F – FDA recommends this temperature for poultry and foods prepared from previously cooked foods.
155°F – That is the required temperature for ground meat and seafood. Ensure you cook these foods at that temperature to ensure they cook properly and kill germs or bacteria.
145°F – The FDA recommends this temperature for beef, lamb, veal, pork, and roasts.
135°F – That temperature is required for fruits, grains, legumes, and vegetables.
Also, you must ensure that you have covered your food properly while cooking. You do not want insects or debris falling into your food while cooking.
It is recommended that you have a food thermometer so that you can use it to determine when the food is ready. Many like to think they can tell when food is ready by looking. However, using a food thermometer is the surest way.
11. Avoid Leaving Food Out for Long
The freshness and safety of the foods you consume in your household highly depend on how you store and manage them. That makes food storage an essential part of food safety rules in the kitchen.
You must refrigerate your food when two to three hours elapse. However, that depends on the state of the room temperature. When you are having a celebration, you can lose track of the time the food has been outside a cool environment. You should know that bacteria thrive in food stored in a temperature danger zone. Bacteria, the main source of food poisoning, grow and multiply in unrefrigerated foods.
Particular foods, commonly referred to as time and temperature control for safety (TCS), are highly perishable and, thus, more vulnerable to bacterial growth than other foods. Some TCS foods include animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs, and cooked vegetables. Other TCS include sliced fruits comprising melons and tomatoes, cream, and cut leafy greens such as green salads. You can only leave TCS foods uncooled for a minimum of four hours, after which bacteria levels build up and can result in foodborne disease.
Even as you store your foods in the fridge, you must ensure that they are properly wrapped and separated to avoid cross-contamination within the cooling system. For instance, you should wrap the meat properly to isolate it from other foods and keep ingredients separate to avoid faster oxidization.
12. Improve Good Kitchen Air Circulation
Kitchen heat is not good for storing food products like onions, garlic, and other dry foods that do not require cool storage. That is because it can cause sweating, resulting in dampness, making it possible for molds and mildew to grow and cause rotting. Also, too much heat can cause the cooks to sweat, and as you know, too much sweating is not hygienic as the sweat could easily find its way to food.
Indoor air quality is good for kitchen areas to facilitate food hygiene. Ensure your kitchen has windows that facilitate air exchange. If your kitchen has no windows, I would suggest you do kitchen remodeling to take into account quality air exchange. You can hire a kitchen remodeling company to remodel your kitchen by installing windows and air conditioning systems to facilitate temperature and humidity control in the kitchen area.
13. Bin Basics
Make it a regular habit to change your bin to improve kitchen hygiene. Bacteria form quickly and decompose old food in the bins. Ensure you throw out the rubbish daily.
14. Keep the Fridge Clean
Food spills while you store them in the fridge. Ensure you clean the fridge anytime food spills to avoid bacteria forming and contaminating other foods in the fridge.
You should abide by the basic food safety rules in the kitchen to keep yourself, your family, friends, and visitors safe from foodborne maladies. Also, maintaining food safety averts the unnecessary costs of replacing food such as meat, fruits, and vegetables that have gone bad due to poor food handling.