Let food safety become your number 1 priority

Food safety is a crucial discipline to have in mind when working with food. Food safety is not just a matter of keeping your hands clean: preparation, storage, and temperature should be considered in order to keep harmful bacteria away.

1 million bacteria within 6 hours. Does that sound like a delicious addition to your dish? Probably not – but it is nonetheless a scenario that can come true if you do not have a high level of food safety in your kitchen.  

Studies show that at 37 degrees Celsius, bacteria can multiply from 1 to 1 million within 6 hours. Bacterial growth in food creates risks of severe bacterial infections. The most common infections caused by incorrect food handling include listeria, salmonella, norovirus, and transmission of campylobacter or E.coli. Normally, a contamination with bacteria causes discomfort and illness for the affected, but it is not uncommon for people with bad immune systems to experience serious illness or even death.  

A high standard of food safety is easier to apply and maintain, if all processes for food handling are considered with food safety in mind. We have gathered tips and ideas for what to consider in three different phases of working with food: Food storage, food preparation, and food transportation.

Food storage: the faster the better

Food storage is one of the first steps where you have to be strict about handling food correctly in order to avoid harmful bacteria and to secure food safety. When preparing your food for storage, whether, refrigerator, freezer, or stockpile, a basic rule is: the faster the better.  

This rule should of course be compared to the needs of the actual product that you are about to handle. A sealed can of tomatoes does not need to be stored as quickly as your milk requires refrigeration.  

Problems with food storage are often seen with perishable and semi perishable foods:  

  • Perishable foods: i.e. milk, meat, cold meat, leftovers, fruit and vegetables 
  • Semi perishable foods: i.e. bread, cake and pastries 

Perishable foods should be stored in either the refrigerator or the freezer. When keeping perishable foods like milk or cold meat in the refrigerator, the recommended temperature of the refrigerator varies, because there is no joint decree/regulation about the subject across countries in a worldwide perspective.  

According to Scandinavian regulation, the temperature of the refrigerator has to be maximum 5 degrees Celsius. If the temperature rises above the 5 degrees Celsius, the process of growth within the bacteria will begin, which will begin the putrefactive process of the foods. If you want to keep your foods frozen, your freezer has to be on the temperature of -18 degrees Celsius.  

All foods can and will decompose over time. We always recommend checking the expiration date of the food product and the quality of the product before use. Combine this information with sensory input such as vision, smell and taste for the best overall evaluation. 

According to Scandinavian decrees, food must be refrigerated down to the temperature of maximum 10 degrees Celsius within three hours. This can be done by a couple of simple initiatives:

  • Disperse your cooked food into several minor storage containers. Spread the food into thin layers in order to make the cooling go faster.
  • Let off steam from the dish in a couple of minutes before covering the container with a lid. 
  • Ensure that the air in your refrigerator is cold enough to cool down your warm dish by making sure there is enough space for the cold air to circulate. An overfilled refrigerator may result in a temperature exceeding 5 degrees Celsius.   
  • No matter how good the hygiene is and how careful the preparation is, everything can be destroyed if the product is contaminated after preparation. Therefore it is very important to keep raw and prepared products separate. Use separate containers and special cutting boards and knives for each product. 

Food preparation: hygiene, cross-contamination and temperature

 
The next step is the preparation of your incoming foods. In order to secure a high level of food safety, be aware of hygiene, temperature and cross-contamination in your food preparation methods. 

Hygiene  
To maintain high standards for hygiene in your kitchen, it is important to always be alert of cleaning in the right way. Your hygiene should focus on two parts: Your personal hygiene and the general hygiene in your kitchen. Both are very important when aiming for a perfectly clean food preparation environment.  
 
Maintaining a high level of personal hygiene when preparing food is often a question of performing good hand hygiene. Your hands are your tools when cooking, and it is your hands that are in most contact with your selected foods. Therefore, it is important to have a clean basis and start your cooking with clean hands. Learn here, how to clean your hands to perfection.

Hand washing and disinfection should be done every time there is a need for it – a good rule of thumb is to wash and disinfect your hands every time, you go to a new task or touch a new kind of foods or surface. To maintain a high personal hygiene, it is moreover valuable to consider:  

  • Remove items that can contaminate your foods and kitchen surfaces. Remove for instance jewelry from your fingers and wrists, and make sure that your hair will not get in contact with food or the kitchen environment. 
  • Use gloves as an extra layer of protection. You should always perform hand hygiene before the use of gloves, but the extra layer can make it more comfortable when touching different kinds of foods, for instance minced meat or other ‘wet’ food products. If you have a wound or minor cut, then always remember to use gloves as well. Learn more here.

 

Having a high standard of kitchen hygiene requires good and continuous cleaning and disinfection of all your kitchen surfaces and equipment through the right processes. It is important to choose a cleaning product which is produced to the task, you are about to handle. Furthermore, you should always disinfect afterwards in order to kill bacteria. Cleaning your surfaces in your kitchen is not enough to guarantee an environment free of bacteria.  

Food preparation methods  
Preparing food in the correct way is not a difficult task, but it requires that you have control over your temperatures during preparation and storage. Bacteria can be killed during the procedures of frying, roasting and boiling. Heating your food thoroughly is important.  

  • When preparing minced or sliced meat (beef and pork), chicken, dishes with eggs, the core temperature of the food must be at least 75 degrees Celsius. This rule also applies for dishes, which are made for serving later. This could for instance be in the catering industry, where food often is pre-prepared and heated up again by the costumer. 
  • When cooking warm dishes for a buffet or similar, it is important that the dish maintains the warm temperature at all times. If the temperature of the dish goes below 65 degrees Celsius, bacteria may begin to grow. According to Scandinavian standards, a dish that goes below 65 degrees Celsius may be reheated, to  minimum of 75 degrees Celsius, but only if the dish has been below 65 degrees Celsius for less than three hours. If the dish has been cooled down for longer, the dish has to be discarded for safety reasons.   
  • If your dish is intended for storage in the refrigerator or freezer instead, it is important to cool down the food rapidly. Fast cooling of a dish or prepared food stops the growth of bacteria within the product.  

Food transportation storage – food containers and labeling  

Catering and take-away requires good and long-lasting food container solutions that can transport your dishes to your costumer without affecting the quality of your final product. Therefore is it important to choose the right food container for your task by considering the purpose your containers have to fulfill.    

Food containers for different purposes  
When choosing food containers, be aware of the specifications needed for your chosen container. If you seek a solution that can be used for dishes intended for reheating, choose containers that can tolerate heat. These include: 

  • C-PET: Can be reheated in both regular oven and in the microwave 
  • PP or Bagasse (Bagasse is an eco-friendly alternative made of sugar canes): Can be reheated in the microwave 
  • Aluminum: Can be reheated in a regular oven or by the grill 

Remember to always be aware of the temperature of the food. If you deliver warm dishes to your costumers, make sure that the temperature of the food does not fall below 65 degrees Celsius.  You can use insulated transportation boxes to keep the food hot or cold. 

Label your containers to ensure food safety   
Ensure food safety after purchase by labeling your containers properly. You can also label your containers with instructions on how to reheat the dish correctly.  

Tip: Use safe cover solutions or sealing films so that food is not contaminated during transport 

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