One of the most common causes of food poisoning is the improper storing, handling, preparing and cooking of foods that are more susceptible to growing bacteria. While the food in your fridge might smell, taste and look normal, it may be contaminated with bacteria that can make you seriously ill if consumed. Let’s look at 4 ways you can store your food to prevent bacteria from multiplying to dangerous levels.
1) Store high-risk foods out of the temperature ‘danger zone’
Firstly, it is important to be aware of the fact that the optimal temperature for dangerous bacteria to grow is between 5 °C and 60 °C. This is known as the ‘danger zone’ and should be avoided at all costs when storing high-risk food like meat (cooked and raw), dairy products, poultry, egg products, small goods, cooked pasta and rice, seafood, pre-prepared salads (like pasta salads and coleslaw), fruit salads, and any ready-to-eat foods like pizzas and sandwiches. Make sure that the temperature of your fridge is 5 °C or below.
2) Put recently purchased frozen foods in the freezer as quickly as possible
When you’re doing your weekly grocery shop, it’s a good idea to pick up any frozen foods at the end of your shop and take them home straight away to store in the freezer. If this isn’t possible and you’re going to be out in hot weather or shopping for over 30 minutes, try and bring an ice-pack or a cooler bag to keep your frozen foods frozen for a longer period of time. It’s also vital that you transport any hot foods in a separate bag to your frozen foods so that neither of them affects the temperature of the other.
3) Don’t refreeze food that has thawed
It is very important to take extra care when thawing foods, as dangerous bacteria can grow on frozen food during the thawing process if the food is thawing in the ‘danger zone’ between 5 °C and 60 °C. Until you are ready to cook it, store your defrosted food in the refrigerator, but if you’re defrosting food in the microwave, make sure that you cook it as soon as it has defrosted. Where possible, avoid freezing food for a second time after it has defrosted because it is more likely to harbour bacteria. Never refreeze raw food!
4) Separate cooked food and raw food
Lastly, it is vital that you store cooked food away from raw food in the fridge. Bacteria that live on raw food has the potential to contaminate cooked food when it is cold, and if the cooked food is not re-heated correctly again, this bacteria can multiply to very high levels that can cause food poisoning. Raw food should also be stored on the bottom shelf of the fridge in a sealed container. This is to ensure that any liquid, such as juices from meat, can not drip down and contaminate the cooked food below.
If you’d like to learn more about food safety, consider taking one of our Nationally Accredited online food safety courses.
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