It’s always fun to cook with family and friends, but it’s even more important to be safe while doing it! Follow these safe food preparation and storage tips to keep you and your loved ones safe from the invisible enemies (aka. bacteria!).
- E. coli
Not all E. Coli bacteria is bad bacteria! In fact, E. coli is important in helping our bodies break down and digest the food we eat. However, there are certain strains that can trigger diarrhea. These strains are typically found in contaminated food or water, so it’s important to practice safe food preparation. Some tips include:
- Always clean raw produce before eating as it could have come into contact with animal manure
- Avoid unpasteurized dairy or juice products as the pasteurization process is necessary to kill unwanted bacteria
- Don’t under cook ground beef – this includes hamburgers! – and cook meat until it reaches 160°F/70°C at its thickest point.
Salmonella is one of the most common culprits behind food poisoning in the Philippines and it tends to target children and infants. Similar to E. coli, it spreads when we eat food (typically meat, poultry, eggs or milk) contaminated with the Salmonella bacteria. Salmonella can be avoided through proper food preparation and food storage. Some tips include:
- Separate raw and cooked food and make sure to use separate utensils and chopping boards for each
- Handle eggs with care. Salmonella can contaminate all types of eggs – even if it’s intact and disinfected. Cook eggs well and avoid poached or runny eggs.
- Keep it cool and don’t leave cooked food out for more than 1 hour after serving. You want to keep your refrigerator or cooler set to 4.4°C or below
- Bacillus Cereus (leftover rice)
We Filipinos love our rice, so it’s important to be aware of Bacillus Cereus, a bacteria that’s commonly found in leftover rice and other leftovers like soups, stews and sauces.
Unlike E. coli and Salmonella, Bacillus Cereus forms after the cooking process through improper food storage and is able to survive normal cooking temperatures, so it’s important to:
- Store cooked food in a wide and shallow container or in smaller portions to allow the food to cool faster and refrigerate as soon as possible
- When reheating your food, ensure the temperature reaches at least 74°C to kill any bacteria
- Ensure frozen food stays frozen until you need to use it. Never thaw and refreeze
- Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV) and is usually transmitted through contaminated food (typically shellfish) and water. The best way to prevent Hepatitis A is by getting yourself and your loved ones vaccinated, but other ways to prevent Hepatitis A include:
- Always wash your hands! Whether you’re about to start cooking or eating, it’s important to wash your hands and teach your children how to thoroughly wash theirs too
- Make your own ice. Instead of buying ice, make your own with clean and safe water
- Avoid raw and under cooked shellfish as they’re a common breeding ground for Hepatitis A
Listeria is a rare type of food poisoning that typically affects pregnant women, newborns and people with weakened immune systems. This bacteria spreads through soil and water and is known to contaminate under cooked meats, shellfish and unpasteurized milk or other dairy products made from raw milk. To protect you and your family it’s important to follow these tips:
- Only drink pasteurized milk and ensure that the milk consistently stays cold at 4°C or below
- Don’t eat raw or lightly cooked sprouts if you or a family member is part of a high risk group. Even thoroughly rinsing sprouts, will not remove the bacteria
- Avoid soft cheeses like feta, brie and blue-veined cheeses if you or a family member is part of a high-risk group