Preparing and Serving Safe Food

Safe food

Preparing and Serving Safe Food
It’s only when safety is ensured at every step of the food process that food can be considered truly safe

Irrespective of the pandemic, food safety and hygiene measures need to be in place 24X7 in order to minimize food risks. Foodism takes you through some important cues for the same

“Food safety involves everybody in the food chain.” – Mike Johanns

Food – something which none of us can do without; and then again there’s a select segment of people who pride themselves on being foodies. In a world which eats dreams and sleeps food it becomes all the more critical to ensure that what goes into our mouths and through it into our stomach is safe, hygienic and fresh.

A positive downside of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has created a deep awareness for sanitization, safety and hygiene. Where earlier food hygiene was something which was considered to be the sole responsibility of the provider – be it a home chef, a professional chef or a food vendor; today everyone across the supply chain – be it the small producer, the processor, the supplier or the consumer or even the government are extremely conscious about food safety. This brings into play an important question – what safety measures need to be in place to make food ‘safe’ per se?

Here’s sharing some pointers for all the different steps involved in the food process –

Food Preparation

The first process related to food is preparation…a minor carelessness may create havoc with the safety quotient of the food. Let’s see what precautions need to be taken while preparing food –

  • Use foods before their expiry date
  • Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds prior and post handling food
    Wash fruits and vegetables with cold water before usage
  • Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot, soapy water before and in-between using each food item
  • Use separate cutting boards for produce and for meat and poultry to reduce the risk of salmonella and other bacteria causing illnesses
  • Opt for multi-colour cutting boards for different food items
  • Always keep separate raw, cooked, and ready-to-eat foods at all the stages – shopping, preparing, or storing
  • Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood
    Marinate meat, seafood, and poultry in the refrigerator in a covered, non-metallic container
  • Don’t decide whether an item is cooked simply on the basis of its colour and texture – use a food thermometer to be sure

Food Temperatures

Uncooked or semi-cooked food can turn your stomach topsy-turvy. So how does one decide if one is serving and eating food which is well-cooked? Simple – measure the temperature of the food with a food thermometer and cross-verify the same with the recommendations given on the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) portal.

Canned Food

With a lot of chefs picking up canned foods a few mandates in this segment include ensuring that –

You don’t serve home-canned foods
You immediately dispose of commercial canned foods that – are leaking, bulging, swollen; look damaged or cracked; spurt liquid or foam when opened; are discoloured, mouldy or stink

Food Serving

Food may be prepared safely and also cooked at the right temperature but all efforts are in vain if safety measures are not taken while serving it. Some tips to ensure safety in this segment –

  • Properly heat or refrigerate food before serving it
  • Don’t mix new food with existing food at a buffet
  • Use separate platters for holding raw and cooked food
  • Avoid keeping food at room temperature for more than two hours
  • Refrigerate hot food within two hours of cooking
  • Reheat food only once
  • Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees Fahrenheit or above
  • Serve hot foods at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or above; and cold foods at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below
  • Use separate utensils for each food item during cooking and serving
  • Use disposable gloves when handling ready-to-eat foods without utensils

Food Storage

Storing food properly is an important and many-a-times neglected element of food safety. Foodism shares some cues for the same –

  • Label all foods with a date
  • Use refrigerated leftovers within three to five days
  • Avoid tasting food to check for freshness; even if you have a slight reservation simply dump it in the waste bin
  • Maintain your refrigerator temperature between 34 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit; as food rapidly spoils at 40 degrees plus Fahrenheit
  • Periodically check refrigerator temperature and log the same

Kitchen Sanitation

With food being cooked in the kitchen, one cannot stress less on the need for maintaining cleanliness and hygiene in this area. A few tips on these lines –

  • Ensure that pest control service is outsourced professionally instead of inexperienced staff handling the same
  • Place garbage containers at an adequate distance from the building; and ascertain that garbage is promptly removed from the premise after each meal
  • Thoroughly clean and sanitize all food contact surfaces and utensils
  • Use the appropriate sanitizing solution in the correct concentration. Kindly note that bleach is not approved for sanitizing food contact surfaces
  • Ensure that gadgets like dishwashers are well-maintained
  • Employees handling food – should wash their hands frequently and thoroughly; should not use aprons or towels to dry hands after washing ;and should not handle, prepare or serve food if they are unwell

Small but meaningful steps followed by all involved in the system will ensure that the food reaching the consumer’s stomach is not only delicious and tantalizingly attractive but also as safe as humanly possible. This is primarily because necessary protocol has been maintained at all levels be it preparation or maintenance of the right temperature of the food; or serving and storing processes; or even kitchen hygiene and usage of canned food. Whenever you falter at any step just remind yourself of the valuable words of Marion Nestle – “Many countries have food safety systems from farm to table. Everybody involved in the food supply is required to follow standard food safety procedures. You would think that everyone involved with food would not want people to get sick from it.”

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