We all expect food establishments to adhere to the highest food safety standards, from proper sanitization of food preparation areas to the regular maintenance of kitchen equipment to prevent contamination, such as maintaining a food X-ray machine. However, many of us overlook the importance of food safety in our own homes.
Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that each year an estimated 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. The most common foodborne illnesses include Salmonella, norovirus, Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter, and Staphylococcus aureus.
While many of these instances of food poisoning occur from eating food outside the home, many also arise from within the home itself. According to some estimates, 12% of foodborne illnesses, or 5.76 million cases, are a result of home-prepared food. This article has outlined some practical tips you can take to ensure you are safely storing your food to help prevent the risk of foodborne illnesses around your home.
To prevent the spread of bacteria, the temperature of your refrigerator should be kept at 40°F or below. If required, a refrigerator thermometer can help you determine the correct temperature.
Always refrigerate perishable food items such as meat, poultry, dairy products, and seafood as soon as possible when you get home. As a general rule, do not leave these items at room temperature for more than two hours, or one hour when the room temperature is over 90° F. Once cooled, food items such as take-out foods and leftovers should also be safely stored in the refrigerator. Other tips to ensure the hygiene of your refrigerator include:
- Regular cleaning: Cleaning your refrigerator and wiping away any spills will help prevent the growth and spread of bacteria such as Listeria.
- Wrap and contain: Refrigerated foods should be stored in air-tight containers or wrapped in sealed bags. This prevents harmful bacteria from passing from raw to ready-to-eat foods and also keeps your food fresher for longer.
- Do not open: Keep food items such as meat, seafood, dairy products, and poultry unopened, in their packaging until you consume them.
When food is thawed, bacteria that were present before freezing can start to multiply. Food should not be thawed at temperatures within ‘the danger zone’ of 40°F to 140°F. When defrosting food, keep it in the refrigerator until it is ready to cook, or use a microwave to safely defrost it.
Once thawed, food should generally not be refrozen as bacteria can multiply during the thawing process. Instead, it is best to cook thawed food before refreezing it as this kills bacteria and other pathogens that may be present.
Following the storage instructions on food labels will ensure you are storing your food safely. This will tell you where to store your food to maintain its safety and freshness and how long it should be consumed once opened. Make sure to consume food before its expiry or ‘use-by’ date, as this ensures the quality and safety of the food item.
Following these guidelines can help you safely store food at home, ensuring a healthier and more hygienic experience for the whole family.