Food Safety — Getting Back To Basics


Food Safety — Getting Back To Basics

Thursday, June 04, 2020

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Under the theme “Food Safety: Everyone's Business”, June 7 is being commemorated worldwide as World Food Safety Day; supporting this we need to get back to basics.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard “go wash your hands” as I grew up… let us just say I would be smiling all the way to the bank. Want to hazard a guess how many times you were told? What about hearing to wash fruits and vegetables before eating? I love the proverb “an apple a day will keep the doctor away”; however, for our purposes we will substitute fruits for apple.

Itinerant vendors selling peeled and sliced fruits such as orange, watermelon, ripe banana and apples are a familiar sight at our stoplights and street corners. The peeling and slicing operation can be seen at the side of our roadways with no observable attendant sanitation or hygiene practices.

While the ease of access encourages increased consumption of healthy food choices, the conditions under which these fruits are sold force us to question whether the hands or fruits have been washed or not.

There have been numerous food safety campaigns throughout the years and they all have some basic principles at their core. These are: Keep clean (food, hands, and environment), separate raw food from cooked, keep food at safe temperatures and use safe water and raw materials. Using the keep clean principle, hands must be washed before preparing foods, particularly ready-to-eat foods, to prevent cross-contamination. Fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables must be washed before being cut or being eaten to prevent the microorganisms from being transferred from the outside to the inside.

In storing foods, the rule of thumb is, anything that can be eaten raw must be kept away from those that must be cooked. Sadly, our retail establishments are often in breach of this basic food safety principle; for example, vegetables are stored with thawed meats. When dealing with temperature-sensitive foods, ensure cold and frozen items — for example, meats — are handled last in order to prevent temperature abuse. Temperature abuse means foods are stored outside of their recommended storage temperature which creates an opportunity for microorganisms to grow and increases the risk of a food safety hazard.

Hence, cold foods should be kept cold (40C/400F) and hot foods should be kept hot (600C/1,400F; the range between 40C/400F and 600C/1,400F is referred to as the danger zone. Food is unsafe to eat if held within the danger zone upwards of 2 hours. Therefore, in food businesses that serve hot meals or cold dishes the temperature of the chafing pans must be monitored and maintained.

As food businesses look to recover from the impact of COVID-19 it is important that basic food safety principles are known and maintained. Food business operators and consumers must embrace the World Food Safety Day theme so as to reduce the likelihood of a food safety infraction and to ensure safe food is provided. Food safety: Your business, my business, everyone's business.

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