July 30, 2019

Storing and Preparing Food: Top Tips for Personal Food Safety Everyone Should Know

There are a number of consequences to not following basic food safety precautions, all of which stem from food poisoning. Exposure to pathogens and microorganisms that cause disease are a major consequence of poor food safety. When bacteria or viruses are exposed to food matter, consumers can become very physically ill days later.

What could happen if you don’t follow food safety precautions?

A considerable part of foodborne outbreaks are related to failing to follow the necessary precautions. For instance in Finland, of reported shortcomings and errors underlying outbreaks, 28 percent were related to temperature and 16 percent to an excessively long storage period. Norovirus is an especially pesky threat to our daily wellbeing, and can be linked to foodborne outbreaks in the majority of cases in both Finland and Norway.

Some of the symptoms of food poisoning are:

  • Upset stomach
  • Stomach and abdominal cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Mild fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Headaches

Poor food storage can also lead to botulism, which in some cases can be deadly.

Food poisoning can be easily avoided by following personal food safety tips when preparing and storing food.

26 top tips for personal food safety

There are many things you can do to prevent illness through properly storing and preparing food.

General food safety tips

  1. Always wash your hands properly with soap and water before and after handling food.
  2. Sanitize the surfaces of your kitchen before and after cooking with hot water, soap, and bleach.
  3. Take the time to look through your fridge for food items that may have gone bad. Even if you aren’t actively consuming them, bacteria forming on these forgotten items may spread to other items in your fridge.
  4. Keep your appliances, dinnerware, and cooking tools clean.
  5. Make sure to properly sanitize easily overlooked parts of your kitchen that can hold bacteria, such as knobs, handles, faucets, and other nooks and crannies.
  6. Always rinse your produce under the tap before eating or consuming. It doesn’t matter if the food is going to be peeled. You may even choose to use an organic vegetable wash as an added precaution.
  7. When shopping for foods, make sure to place meat and seafood in plastic bags away from other items in your cart.
  8. Also, make sure to separate cutting boards or platters for serving fresh product and meats or seafood.
  9. Avoid placing cooked food items on the same platter or cutting board that was used for raw food.
  10. Avoid oven or stove fires by degreasing the surface and inside of your appliance regularly and keeping the surfaces clean.

Storing food safety tips

  1. Understand what “high-risk” foods are. These include raw, cooked, and preserved meats, dairy products, eggs, cooked pasta or rice, raw or cooked seafood, prepared salads, prepared fruits, and “read to eat” items such as sandwiches and rolls. Canned or packaged foods that are opened can also be considered high-risk foods.
  2. Always keep high-risk food at the proper temperature. Store these items at 5°C or below, or store them at a temperature above 60 °C to avoid the “danger zone” of food storage. The danger zone is typically between 5°C and 60°C. It is vital to keep food out of this zone for as long as possible.
  3. Store raw foods, such as raw meat, seafood, and vegetables below cooked foods in the refrigerator or freezer. 
  4. Store food in properly covered containers made of glass or plastic. Make sure that you use containers or bags that are 100% sealable and take care to make sure you properly seal them.
  5. Avoid refreezing already thawed foods. Bacteria have a higher chance of appearing in re-frozen thawed foods.
  6. Bacteria can easily grow in frozen food while it is thawing, so it would be wise to avoid thawing frozen items in the danger zone. Keep your defrosting food items in your fridge until you are ready to prepare or cook it.
  7. Check and observe the expiration dates on all of your food products.
  8. As a general rule of thumb, most prepared foods can last approximately 2-3 days in the fridge.
  9. Take special care with high-risk foods and make sure they are stored properly immediately after consuming portions of them.
  10. Make sure your refrigerator is consistently at 5°C  or below.
  11. Make sure your freezer is consistently at -15°C  or below.

Preparation food safety tips

  1. Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw meat and fish away from other food items in your fridge. After cutting raw meats, immediately thoroughly wash your cutting board and utensils before cutting other items up.
  2. Marinate meat and poultry in a covered dish in the refrigerator, not on the countertop.
  3. Cook your raw beef, pork, and lamb to an internal temperature of 62.8ºC at a minimum. You can measure internal temperatures with a food thermometer, which are inexpensive and readily available. Be sure to check the temperature of the meat item before removing it from the cooking heat source. 
  4. For safety as well as quality, allow cooked meats to “rest” for at least 2-3 minutes before cutting or eating.
  5. Perishable food should not be left out for more than hours at room temperature and no more than an hour when the room temperature is at or above 32ºC.

Did you enjoy this post? Take a look at Food Spoilage is a Bigger Problem Than You Think (part 1 & part 2) and The Challenges of Fresh Produce Logistics as well. Remember to share the post with friends and colleagues who could benefit from reading it!