Steps to Achieving Food Safety

Alt: = "Photo showing foods in freezer"

Table of contents

  • Introduction
  • Steps to achieving food safety


Food safety has to do with appropriate handling, preparation, storage and use of food in manners that prevent chemical and microbial or minimize microbial spoilage. Food safety is very broad topic and includes safety precautions on pesticides, herbicides, chemical additives, and most importantly microbes. Food scientists, food processors and consumers focus most on microbiological quality because microorganisms are often too small to see with the naked eyes and have the ability to multiply profusely every 15-20 minutes.  Many of them produce toxins and/ or cause infections, others cause spoilage and some both. They pose great challenge to the food industry and thus designs of most food processing outlets are made with microbial quality in mind. This includes a number of techniques that should be strictly followed to prevent potential risk factors from coming into direct contact with food materials and food containers and also reduce the effects of severe health hazards. Chemical contamination of foods on the other hand include residues of pesticides, herbicides, veterinary drugs, heavy metals and other extraneous matters in foods. Various political governments have legislations on food safety standards to ensure that food within their territories are wholesome.

Apart from chemical or microbial contaminations of food, food itself being a chemical constituent, can decompose easily and become hazardous to human health, if not handled appropriately. Therefore, food safety starts from the farm through marketing, and till the time it ends up in the mouth.

Steps to Achieving Food Safety at Home

1. Wash hands and surfaces often

Bacteria can be spread throughout the kitchen and get onto hands, cutting boards, utensils, counter tops and food. 

To ensure that your hands and surfaces are clean, be sure to:

a. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers and handling pests.

b. Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter stops wish hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next food.

c. Consider using paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces. If you use cloth towels, wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine or with very hot water.

d. Rinse and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten.

e. Rub firm-skin fruits and vegetables under running tap water or scrub with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing.

f. With canned goods, remember to clean lids before opening

g. Use only sound and clean raw food materials and do use safe and clean water to prepare foods.

h. Prevent foods from being contaminated by pathogens from humans, pets or pests.

i. Package foods using appropriate containers and store them at the proper temperature

j. Separate raw and cooked foods to prevent contaminating the cooked foods.

2. Separate raw meat, fish, poultry from other foods

Cross-contamination can occur when bacteria are spread from one food product to another. This is especially common when handling raw meat, seafood, poultry and eggs. The key is to keep these food and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.

To prevent cross-contamination, remember to:

a. Separate raw meat, seafood, poultry and eggs from other foods in your grocery shopping cart, grocery bags and in your refrigerator.

b. Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, seafood, poultry and eggs.

c. Never place cooked food on a plate that was previously used to put raw meat, seafood poultry and eggs.

d. Don’t reuse marinades used on raw foods unless you boil them first.

3. Cook at the right temperature and time

Food can safely be cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria that causes illness. To ensure that your foods are cooked properly and safely:

a. Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of cooked foods. Check the internal temperature in several places to be sure the meal, poultry seafood, eggs or dishes containing eggs are cooked to safe minimum internal temperature.

b. Cook ground meat or poultry until it reaches a safe internal temperature. Colour is not a reliable indicator of safe cooking.

c. Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm. Only use recipes in which eggs are cooked or heated thoroughly.

d. When cooking in a microwave oven, cover food, stir, and rotate for even cooking. If there is no turntable, rotate the dish by hand once or twice during cooking. Always allow standing time, which completes the cooking before checking the internal temperature with a food thermometer. Food is done when it reaches the safe minimum internal temperature.

e. Bring sauces, soups and gravy to a boil when reheating.

4. Chill or Refrigerate foods promptly

Refrigerate foods as quickly as possible because cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria. Cold air must circulate to help keep food safe. Keeping a constant refrigerator temperature of 4°C or lower is one of the most effective ways of reducing the risks of food borne diseases. Use an appliance thermometer to be sure the temperature is consistently 4°C or lower, and the freezer temperature is 0°C or lower.

To keep food properly chilled:

a. Refrigerate or freeze meat, seafood, poultry and eggs and other perishables within 1 hours of purchasing them or 2 hours of cooking them.

b. Never thaw food at room temperature, such as on the counter top. Food must be kept at a safe temperature during thawing. There are three safe ways to defrost food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in microwave. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately.

c. Device of large amount of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in rh refrigerator. Use or discard refrigerated food on a regular basis.

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