Unsafe food has been a problem throughout human history. Few of the food-safety problems we encounter today are new. Although governments all over the world are doing their best to improve the safety of the food supply, food-borne disease remains a significant health issue in both developed and developing countries, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Based on information supplied by WHO, Khmer Times business reporter Sok Chan has identified five keys to safer food preparation: keep food clean; separate raw and cooked foods; cook food thoroughly; store food at safe temperatures; and use clean water and raw materials. These key points are expanded on below:
Keep food clean
- Wash your hands before handling food and during preparation.
- Wash your hands after going to the toilet.
- Wash and sanitise all surfaces and equipment used for food preparation.
- Protect kitchen areas and food from insects, pests and other animals.
While most microorganisms do not cause disease, dangerous microorganisms are widely found in soil, water, animals and people. These microorganisms are carried on hands, wiping cloths and utensils, especially cutting boards. The slightest contact can transfer them to food and cause foodborne diseases.
Separate raw and cooked foods
- Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods.
- Use separate equipment and utensils such as knives and cutting boards for handling raw foods.
- Store food in containers to avoid contact between raw and prepared items.
Raw foods, especially meat, poultry and seafood, and their juices, can contain dangerous microorganisms which may be transferred onto others foods during preparation and storage.
Cook food thoroughly
- Cook food thoroughly, especially meat, poultry, eggs and seafood.
- Bring foods like soups and stews to the boil to ensure that all meat and poultry contained in them have reached 70 degrees Celsius. Make sure that juices are clear, not pink. Ideally, use a thermometer.
- Reheat cooked foods thoroughly.
Proper cooking kills most dangerous microorganisms. Studies show that cooking food to a temperature of 70 C can help ensure it is safe for consumption. Foods that require special attention include minced meats, rolled roasts, large joints of meat and whole poultry.
Store food at safe temperatures
- Do not leave cooked food at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
- Refrigerate promptly all cooked and perishable food (preferably below 5 C).
- Serve cooked food piping hot (above 60 C).
- Do not store food too long, even in the refrigerator.
- Do not thaw frozen food at room temperature.
Microorganisms can multiply very quickly on food stored at room temperature. The growth of microorganisms is slowed or stopped at temperatures below 5 C or above 60 C. Some dangerous microorganisms can still grow below 5 C, however.
Use clean water and raw materials
- Use clean water, or treat water to make it safe.
- Select fresh and wholesome foods.
- Choose foods processed for safety, such as pasteurised milk.
- Wash fruits and vegetables, especially if eaten raw.
- Do not consume food beyond its expiry date.
Raw materials, including water and ice, may be contaminated with dangerous microorganisms and chemicals. Toxic chemicals may form on foods that have gone mouldy or whose packaging has been damaged. Care in selection of raw materials and simple measures such as washing and peeling may reduce the risk.