Food Safety at Home
Even in the home, food poisoning can occur. Food that can potentially make you ill does not have to look, taste or smell differently and so it is important that appropriate food safety practices are followed in the home kitchen to ensure food consumed is safe.
To minimise the risk of food poisoning, follow these simple rules:
- Food poisoning bacteria require warm temperatures to multiply to large enough numbers to cause illness. The temperature danger zone for food poisoning bacteria is between 5-60 degrees C.
- Food poisoning bacteria are associated with potentially hazardous foods which include raw or cooked meat, dairy products, seafood, processed fruit and vegetables, cooked rice and pasta and processed foods containing eggs, beans, nuts or other protein-rich foods.
- Ensure cold potentially hazardous foods are stored in the fridge. When the temperature drops to below 5 degrees C of less, the growth of bacteria greatly slows down.
- Ensure hot potentially hazardous foods are kept hot. At 60 degrees C, bacteria stop to grow and as the temperature increases bacteria will start to die.
- Ensure potentially hazardous food is only left out at room temperature (i.e. in temperature danger zone) when required for use.
- If you have gone shopping and bought potentially hazardous food, get this food home as soon as soon as possible so it can be placed in the fridge.
- Contaminants from your hands can be transmitted to food and so hand washing is very important.
- Wash hands well with warm soapy water for around 30 seconds before preparing food, before eating, after handling raw meat and after using the toilet.
- Ensure hands are dried well after being washed with clean or disposable towels.
- Ask others to prepare food if you are feeling unwell.
- Cover exposed cuts and wounds when handling food.
- Cross contamination means to transfer bad bacteria from raw food (i.e. raw meat) to ready to eat food (i.e. cooked foods) from your hands, surfaces of utensils.
- Ensure hands are thoroughly washed and dried after handling raw meat.
- Use separate chopping boards for raw meat and ready to eat food.
- Thoroughly clean surfaces and utensils that have been used to prepare raw meat.
- Keep raw foods separated from ready to eat foods. Store raw meats near the bottom of the fridge to prevent any juices from dripping onto other foods, otherwise ensure raw meats are stored within sealed containers in the fridge.
Thawing frozen food
- Bacteria can grow in frozen food while it is thawing and so defrosting food at room temperature should be avoided.
- Frozen food should be defrosted in the fridge or in the microwave.
- Food should be fully defrosted before cooking.
- Food to be thawed in the fridge should be placed near the bottom of the fridge to prevent juices from dripping onto other foods.
- If using a microwave oven, cook food immediately after defrosting.
- Avoid re-freezing thawed food.
Thoroughly cook food
- Thorough cooking of food will ensure that any bacteria on food is destroyed.
- Foods should be cooked until they are steaming hot.
- Cook poultry until the juices run clear.
- Cook mince, hamburger patties and sausages until there is no pink colouration.
- Steaks can be still pink in the middle after cooked as any bacteria will be on the outside of the meat rather than in the middle.
Cooling and reheating food
- Reheat foods thoroughly until they are steaming hot. This destroys bacteria that may have grown in the food while it has been stored in the fridge.
- For risky foods that need cooling after cooking, it is important to cool the food to below 5ºC as quickly as possible. This minimises the time the food sits in the ideal bacteria-growing temperature.
- Leave cooling foods at ambient temperature until they stop steaming, then place immediately into the fridge.
- Portion food into smaller sizes so they may cool quickly.
Useful fact sheets
- SA Department of Health
- Food Safety Information Council
- Department of Primary Industries and Regions SA