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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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  • [January 15, 2016] - It's National Soup Month so this month's posts will focus on soups. Yum!
  • [February 1, 2016] - An interesting report on why you should always choose organic tea verses non-organic: Toxic Tea (pdf format)
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Monday, October 18, 2010

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Good Kitchen Practices to Reduce Food Borne Illness

Frugal Kitchens 101

Most people will say they have the flu when in fact they have a mild case of food poisoning.  The flu is a much more serious illness that can take weeks to recover from whereas the short duration of mild food poisoning only lasts a day or two.  Food borne illnesses resulting from food poisoning are caused by bacteria (eg. Clostridium botulinum, Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, Vibrio cholerae) or molds or parasites (eg. and can range from mild to severe even causing death.  Foods can be naturally contaminated with bacteria that can cause food born illnesses (eg. C. botulinum) or they can become by improper food handling and storage (eg. E. coli).  Practicing safe food handling in the kitchen can greatly reduce the chances of contracting a food borne illness.  This week's Frugal Kitchens 101 focuses on some of the things you can do in the kitchen to reduce the risk for contracting a food borne illness.

  • the danger zone - The food danger zone is 4.4°C (40°F) to 60° (140°F).  This is the range where foods easily become contaminated and can quickly spoil.  It is very important to keep cold foods cold (below 4.4°C) and hot foods hot (above 60°C).  Hot foods meant for storage should be quickly cooled then stored.  The foods at risk tend to be those served buffet style especially those served at home functions, picnics and church gatherings where chaffing dishes (hot) and ice (cold) may not be used.  When hosting this type of event if at all possible use chaffing dishes, crockpots, tabletop roasters and ice to keep foods at their proper temperatures.  Never store foods that may have unintentionally been in the danger zone.  Avoid having others help with the clean-up of the actual food where something like leftover potato salad that has been left out too long might end up in your refrigerator through the good intentions of others. 
  • hand washing - Your hands should be washed in hot, soapy water before beginning any food prep and then several times during the food prep as you touch surfaces that may be contaminated (eg. refrigerator handle, raw foods, etc.). 
  • food prep -  Use separate cutting boards for meats, seafood, poultry, and fruits or vegetables to prevent cross contamination.  Spray down your cutting boards with alcohol before washing then again after washing to kill any remaining bacteria.  Never place cooked foods onto a surface that had raw food on during the food prep stage.  Knife handles in particular can be problematic if they are not all one piece as food residues especially blood from meats and poultry can get between the handle and blade at the bolster.  If you have this design of knife and we all have at least one of them spray this area until soaked with rubbing alcohol before and after washing.
  • pre-cut - Many grocery stores offer a variety of pre-cut fruits and vegetables as a convenience product.  The more a food has been handled the greater the chance for contamination and you have no idea who or how it was handled.  The second problem with pre-cut is the surface area is greatly increased allowing bacteria more space to multiply.  This is one reason I don't like buying pre-ground meats of any kind.
  • fruits & vegetables - All raw fruits and vegetables as well as fresh herbs should be washed prior to consumption regardless whether the package says they were pre-washed or they were just picked from the garden or they are organic.  E.coli in particular has been a contaminant in pre-washed salad greens and spinach.
  • clean-up as you go - I cannot stress this enough!  If you watch any of the cooking shows you will notice that cleaning the prep area during the prep is as important as the food prep itself.  This is a safety measure to prevent cross contamination as well as accidental injury.
  • taste testing - One of my pet peeves is someone tasting from the stirring spoon then returning the same spoon to the pot.  The human mouth is the dirtiest part of the body with high bacterial levels.  It also has high enzyme levels needed for the initial stage of breaking down foods.  Returning a spoon that has been tasted from introduces both bacteria and enzymes that can cause food spoilage as well as food borne illness.  If taste testing remove a small portion to a dipping bowl then sample from that bowl using a separate spoon from the stirring spoon.
  • if in doubt throw it out - This should be your kitchen mantra!  Never taste food that you suspect may have spoiled as some as in C. botulinum toxin is odourless, colourless and tasteless but only a very small amount can cause serious illness or death.  Do not scrape mold off of jam then consume the jam.  While scraping mold off of hard cheeses is supposed to be fine I don't recommend it.
  • food preservation (eg. canning, freezing, drying, curing) - Use the current, up to date guidelines for safe home food preservation.  Do not take shortcuts or use out dated, unsafe preserving methods.  Always use the proper canning processing method - low acid foods are pressure canned processed while high acid foods can be boiling water bath processed.
  • kitchen towels, sponges, dishcloths - I view all of these items as single use.  What I mean by this is a I will use a t-towel or multiple t-towels during food prep for a meal.  During the food prep these are tossed into a small basket I keep in the kitchen but away from the food prep area as they become soiled.  They are removed from the kitchen at the end of that meal's clean-up and allowed to dry until laundry day where they are washed in hot water.  On any given day this means I can easily go through 5 t-towels but on busy canning days I may go through as many as 20.  Dish cloths are treated the same way and I really don't like kitchen sponges so seldom use them.  A sponge can be sanitized by placing in the microwave on high for 2 minutes to kill off bacteria.  This should be done 2 to 3 times per week.

1 food lovers commented:

LindaG said...

Good tips! :)