Updated: Jan 31
During food preparation, we tend to concentrate more on the flavor and taste of the food. While the factors mentioned above need attention, storing, and safe handling of food is of greater importance to prepare food that is wholesome, safe, and acceptable for human consumption.
Thirteen most common mistakes responsible for outbreaks of food poisoning during the preparation are:-
1. Food prepared much before serving time
Consume cooked food by 2.5 hours after it’s preparation. Hence, if you notice in any buffet or self-service restaurants, the food is still hot, because it is held at 65°C. There is no point in preparing the food meant for dinner during lunchtime and held at 65°C until dinner. The freshness and the quality of the food will be the same, and there are higher chances that the food will get spoiled.
Image Courtesy:- WhiteHorseCouncil
2. Storing perishable food at room temperature beyond 4 hours
Store salads, sauces, spreads, and chutneys in the chiller. If not, prepare to consume immediately. Similarly, milk left out for a longer time will putrefy to spoil. Hence, store all the perishables in the chiller condition or consume quickly.
3. Reheating of leftover food
In my previous stories, I have mentioned about leftover food and what precautions to be taken to handle them properly. Do not reheat more than once. There are significant temperature fluctuations that increase bacterial growth during this period. In the case of leftovers, consume the reheated food immediately, as the food is already a few days old and prone to spoilage.
4. Wrong methods of thawing
Thawing in the simpler term is to remove the ice particles in the food to melt and to make the product suitable for cooking. For instance, any frozen meat or chicken must be thawed for at least 8–12 hours overnight in the chiller according to the portion required. Check the meat by poking a knife in the mid-portion. If that portion is hard and still has ice, then the meat is not thawed thoroughly.
In most of the restaurants that I have audited, thawing of meats, are always done in still water and left aside to breed and spread foul smell. This method of thawing leads to discoloration of the water as well; the meat is susceptible to spoilage because of the thawing process under room temperature.
5. Contamination from raw to cooked and vice-versa
Raw meat and non-vegetarian ingredients are more prone to spoilage and contamination because they have higher water activity and are more proteinaceous. Hence, it is always recommended to use separate utensils, knives, and chopping boards while using veg and non-veg ingredients.
Cross-contamination can also occur via raw to cooked food. One of the primary sources could while during storing and handling. It is recommended that we store the cooked food above and raw food at the bottom of the fridge compartment so that there is no dripping loss. Bacteria from raw food can contaminate cold prepared food, and the bacteria can multiply to dangerous levels.
6. Slow cooling of food at room temperature before refrigerating it
Don’t leave food out of the refrigerator for more than two hours. Illness-causing bacteria can multiply when perishable foods are left in the danger zone — between 5°C and 63°C. Always refrigerate foods in a timely matter. If you are on a road trip, tailgating or picnicking, pack perishable foods in a well-insulated cooler with ice or cold packs.
7. Undercooking meat, poultry or seafood
Cooked food is safe only after it’s been heated to a high enough internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria to avoid eating undercooked foods, use a food thermometer — the only way to determine if cooked meals are safe to eat. Do not rely on sight, smell, or taste to check whether the food is cooked.
8. Infected food handlers
Illness-causing bacteria can survive in many places — including hands. Always wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm, running water before and after handling food. If the handler is sick or having any injury, he/she must not be allowed to handle the food directly.
Image Courtesy:- StateFoodSafety.com
9. Washing meat, or poultry
Never wash raw meat or poultry because the water can quickly spread bacteria to your sink, countertops, and other kitchen surfaces. Only wash fresh fruits and vegetables.
10. Not replacing sponges, dish rags and cloth used for cleaning
Ironically, sponges and dishrags are some of the dirtiest tools in the kitchen. Sponges and dishrags can hold harmful foodborne pathogens and cause a severe health risk. Always sanitize your sponges at least every other day and replace them every week or two for the best protection against germs.
11. Eating raw cookie dough (and other foods containing uncooked eggs and flour)
It is always too tempting to taste the cookie dough, cake batter, or the chappati (Roti dough). Never eat any raw eggs because they may contain Salmonella or other harmful bacteria. Instead, cook eggs thoroughly and avoid foods that contain raw or undercooked eggs. Raw flour contains E. coli. Consuming this raw dough can cause people to fall sick.
Image Courtesy Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
12. Marinating meat or seafood on the counter. Using raw meat marinade on cooked food.
Never marinate meat, poultry, or seafood on the counter or use the same marinade for raw chicken and cooked food. If you marinate on the table, harmful germs can multiply rapidly when in the danger zone — between 5°C and 63°C. Also, using the same marinade on raw and cooked meats can spread harmful bacterias from raw food that can spread to cooked food. Always marinate raw meat, seafood, and poultry in the refrigerator.
13. Tasting food to see if it’s still good
Never taste your food to check if it has spoiled. Eating just a tiny bit of contaminated food can cause serious illness. Throw all expired food before harmful bacteria can spread. Consider composting expired plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, bread, and vegetarian leftovers.