Ensuring food safety at home
by Iris Winston
Most people are aware of the importance of such basic cleanliness measures as careful hand washing before preparing food. But not every precaution is as well known. Keep in mind some simple, but vital, tips:
• Do not defrost meat at room temperature.
• Wash all fruit before cutting into it. (You may not eat the rind of a melon but bacteria sitting on its surface may get pushed into the edible areas by the knife cutting through an unclean surface.)
• Refrigerate leftovers promptly and cover them as soon as they have cooled. These are three of a long list of tips on effective ways to prevent foodborne illnesses, pointed out in the Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education FightBAC campaign.
“People need to FightBAC whenever they are handling food,” emphasizes Brenda Watson, the partnership’s executive director. “Following four simple steps — clean, separate, cook and chill —
will reduce the risk of foodborne illness.”
Health Canada estimates that some 85 per cent of the two million cases of foodborne illnesses reported in the country each year could be avoided if consumers took these four steps when handling food at home.
Wash your hands and any utensils with hot soapy water before, during and after preparing food.
Use different cutting boards to avoid cross contamination by separating raw from cooked food.
Cook food thoroughly and do not leave food at room temperatures where bacteria can grow.
Keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Do not leave food at room temperature for more than two hours and make sure that the refrigerator is set at a temperature of 4°C (40°F) at home. And pack those school lunches in insulated lunch bags and add icepacks.
The Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education is a national association of over 50 public and private organizations committed to educating Canadians about the ease and importance of safe food handling in the home. A coalition of industry, consumer, health, environmental and government organizations, the partnership, a non-profit organization since 1998, was formed to accomplish the shared goal of reducing microbial foodborne illness in Canada through its public education program.
Further information on food safety and ways to combat bacteria and foodborne illnesses are available on the partnership’s website at www.canfightbac.org or by calling the food safety information line at 1 800 892-8333.
Information on food safety is also on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website at www.inspection.gc.ca or the Health Canada website at www.healthcanada.com.