The Tuesday Checklist: Festive Food Safety

Earlier in the year we looked at the Australian Dietary Guidelines, however we didn't cover the important 5th guideline - 

Guideline 5

Care for your food; prepare and store it safely

The fifth and final Australian Dietary Guideline is easily brushed to the side and forgotten about in this age where health discussions are largely centered around weight and preventing chronic disease. This lack of concern for food safety was reflected in a recent report by Thermos Australia, which indicated that over a half of Aussies did not have an adequate knowledge of safe food temperature zones, and over a third of us would be happy to eat food that they knew had at some stage been kept at an unsafe temperature*. No wonder over 5 million Australians are affected by food poisoning each year!

Christmas being a time of year where we are preparing and transporting a lot of delicious food, it is particularly important to brush up on some food safety principles. So for this Tuesday Checklist we have 5 tips for festive food safety.

  1. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold
    Sound obviously right? Cold foods should be kept below 5°c, while hot foods need to be kept at 60°c or above. Between these temperatures is considered the 'danger zone' where bacteria are most likely to grow and multiply rapidly. The longer food spends in the danger zone, the higher the risk of contamination.
  2. Prepare your fridge
    Give your refrigerator a thorough clean out before doing your Christmas shop, as well as before any parties you are hosting this year. Get rid of any items that are past their use-by date, especially any old leftovers tucked away in the corner growing mould (come on, we all have them!). If in doubt, throw it out. This will clear up some much needed space so that foods brought into the home can go straight in, instead of having to sit out on the bench while you play a round of fridge tetris. A less cluttered fridge will also allow cold air to circulate more efficiently.
  3. Use the right shelf
    Store raw meats, chicken or fish on the lowest shelf, or inside the designated meat compartment, ensuring that they are well sealed. This will help stop any liquids from dripping and contaminating foods that will not be heated before eating. Keep cheese and dairy foods on the top shelf where they are usually kept the coolest.
  4. Defrost safely and for a sensible time
    Always defrost foods in the fridge, or by using appropriate settings in a microwave. Never leave food to defrost on the bench, or in the sink, as here they will be most susceptible to reaching the temperature danger zone and spoiling. Time your defrosting so that food is ready just when it is needed. Too early and your food may be spoiled before you go to cook it, too late and it may not cook properly due to varying temperature zones within the item.
  5. Separate boards for separate foods
    Avoid cross contamination by using different chopping boards and different utensils for raw and cooked foods, as well as for meats, vegetables and fruit. Wipe down bench tops with warm soapy water, and clean up spills as they occur. This will prevent the spread of bacteria and minimise your risk of serving contaminated food.

Of course there are many other tips that could be added, including washing hands and avoiding food preparation if you are unwell. If you want to read more, you could check out this link. Enjoy a safe holiday, free from food poisoning everyone!

* Accessed 14th August 2014.