Food Sanitation Tips

Food sanitation tips: including personal hygiene, food preparation tips, the two-spoon tasting method, hand washing, and food thawing.

If you prepare or handle food that will be eaten, you must be sure you meet the highest standards of sanitation to make sure the food is safe to eat. While these standards are especially important if you work in a food-service operation, they are just as valid in your home kitchen, backyard barbecue, or at an office potluck.

The first part of sanitation involves your own personal hygiene:

-Don't handle food when you are sick.

-Cover cuts, burns, sores, and abrasions with a tight, dry, antiseptic bandage.

-Shower or bathe daily when you are handling food.

-Keep your clothes clean; wear an apron and change it if you wipe your hands on it or it becomes soiled.

-Keep your hair clean and tied back.

-Use soap and plenty of hot water to wash your hands frequently, especially after any act that might contaminate foods.

What sort of acts might contaminate foods? Touching your eyes, mouth, ears, nose or hair, smoking, eating or drinking, using the rest room, sneezing or coughing, using a tissue or handkerchief, handling raw food (such as unwashed fruits or vegetables or uncooked meat), taking out the trash, touching a pet or animal, or touching any dirty surfaces (such as wash cloths, money or credit cards, or soiled dishes or linen).

If you wear food handler gloves, throw them away after each use, or wash your gloved hands as thoroughly as you would wash your bare hands. Gloves can spread germs just as easily as bare hands.

As you prepare food:

-Keep raw food away from ready-to-eat or cooked food.

-Keep all food away from chemicals.

-Keep cold or frozen foods out of the refrigerator or freezer for as short a time as possible.

-Wash all raw fruits and vegetables before preparation.

-Cover food during preparation.

-When plating food, avoid handling tableware that may touch people¡¦s mouths.

-Never plate food that has touched the floor, unwashed hands, or dirty equipment.

-Always use tongs or scoops when necessary. Wear latex gloves, and never touch prepared food with your hands.

-Wipe up spills promptly.

-Hold food at proper temperatures. Some safe holding temperatures for food are:

-Stuffed meats and reheated leftovers: 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius) or above

-Cold food: 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) or below

-Beef and other hot food: 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius) or above

-Fish and poultry: 145 degrees Fahrenheit (63 degrees Celsius) or above

-Cooked pork, pork products, hamburgers, and eggs: 155 degrees Fahrenheit (68 degrees Celsius)

Clean and sanitize equipment and utensils after each changed use. This includes knives, cutting boards, and thermometers.

Storing food properly is also important:

-Do not refreeze food after it has thawed.

-Always label and date leftovers

-Store raw or thawing meats on the lowest refrigerator shelves

-Store shellfish in the original containers

-Always store food in food-grade containers and food wrap

Most harmful germs thrive in temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit (4 and 60 degrees Celsius). This is known as the Temperature Danger Zone. However, that number may vary slightly as different health departments vary that amount by plus or minus 5 degrees. When you prepare food, keep it out of the Temperature Danger Zone as much as possible. Note that the Temperature Danger Zone includes room temperature. Whenever a potentially hazardous food (fish, beef, poultry, eggs, dairy products, shellfish, pork, some beans) has been in the Temperature Danger Zone for four hours or more, it should be thrown out.

Salmonella bacteria are the number one cause of foodborne infection in the United States. Typical sources of salmonella are meat, poultry, and eggs. Infection can be prevented by cooking food thoroughly and chilling leftovers rapidly.

There are two special methods that can help raise the standards of sanitation in your kitchen. The first is the two-spoon tasting method. Use a clean spoon to scoop up the item you wish to taste. Pour that food into a second clean spoon and then taste it. Never taste food over an open container. This ensures that the spoon you taste from does not go back into the food you are preparing.

The second method is also one of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of germs: hand washing. Wet your hands with hot water and wash your hands and wrists with soap for at least 20 seconds. Scrub your nails with a nail brush. Rinse your hands with hot water for 20 seconds. Follow this procedure twice after using the restroom. Dry your hands using a single-use paper towel or an air dryer. Kitchen towels can retain germs.

The methods you use for thawing food is also an integral part of safe food handling. There are three safe ways of thawing frozen food: in a refrigerator, under running water, and in a microwave. Never thaw frozen food at room temperature. It runs the risk of contamination whenever it is left at room temperature.

When thawing frozen food in the refrigerator, remove the food from the freezer. Thaw only the amount of food you need. Place the wrapped food in a shallow container on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator. Do not unwrap the food for thawing. Make sure the refrigerator temperature is cold enough to keep the thawing food cooler than 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius). Leave the food in the refrigerator until it is totally thawed. Large amounts of food or food in boxes can take several days to fully thaw in the refrigerator.

When thawing frozen foods under running water, begin by removing only the amount of food you need from the freezer. Make sure the food is tightly wrapped or placed in a watertight container. Place the wrapped food or container under cold running water of 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) or less. Make sure the water doesn't directly touch the food and that the food doesn¡¦t directly touch the sink. Leave the food under running water until it is completely thawed.

When thawing frozen food in a microwave oven, begin by removing only the amount of food you need from the freezer. Put the food in a microwave-safe container. Adjust the microwave setting according to the manufacturer's instructions. Start the microwave. Thaw food in a microwave oven only in emergencies. Cook food immediately after microwave thawing. Microwave cooking causes food to lose moisture and reduces its quality.

Following these simple sanitation tips can reduce the chance that you or the people to whom you serve food will suffer from foodborne illnesses.

© High Speed Ventures 2011