Food Hygiene, otherwise known as Food Safety can be defined as handling, preparing and storing food or drink in a way that best reduces the risk of consumers becoming sick from the food-borne disease. The principles of food safety aim to prevent food from becoming contaminated and causing food poisoning.
With this in mind, ensuring that food is safe for human consumption is likely the most critical part of the food preparation process. This ranges from what is called farm to fork, meaning from the farms all the way to your plate. Check out our article on the food production chain and the possible ways contamination can happen.
This means that food hygiene is important at home as well as in the restaurant, retail store or food factory.
There has become an ever-increasing awareness of food safety by the general public and news agencies are reporting on food recalls and outbreaks much more often.
Reviewing the available statistics, The CDC estimates that each year 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalised, and 3,000 die from food poisoning.
Food hygiene is important for the following reasons:
- If food or drink is not safe to eat, you cannot eat or drink. The easiest example of this is safe drinking water. We would never drink water that did not come from a reputable source. The very same principle applies to food.
- Every day, people worldwide get sick from the food or drink they consume. Bacteria, viruses and parasites found in food can cause food poisoning.
- There is no immediate way of telling if food is contaminated because you cannot see, taste or smell anything different from the norm.
- Food poisoning can lead to gastroenteritis and dehydration or potentially even more serious health problems such as kidney failure and death.
- This risk is especially significant for those in the high-risk category: Small children/ babies, pregnant moms, the elderly and immunocompromised, especially HIV infections and cancer patients.
- Food hygiene and safety prevent germs from multiplying in foods and reaching dangerous levels.
- Ensures daily healthy family living.
- Keeping one healthy and preventing the additional cost of buying medication and medical check-ups. This is especially important in business. Companies worldwide lose Billions of Dollars per year due to staff downtime.
- Hand washing accounts for 33% of all related food poisoning cases. It is therefore important to maintain good personal hygiene practice. This is something we are taught early in our childhood, yet hand washing is still a critical problem in the kitchen
Cross-contamination is a major cause of food poisoning and can transfer bacteria from one food to another (usually raw foods to ready to eat foods).
It is crucial to be aware of how it spreads so you will know how to prevent it. Good food hygiene is therefore essential for food factories to make and sell food that is safe to eat. The first step is for the management and staff to have the knowledge and understand of what food hygiene and food safety is.
At HygieneFoodSafety we promote the food safety pillars concept which covers all aspects of food hygiene and food safety.
What Are The Food Safety Pillars?
- Cleaning & Sanitising
- The first step in creating a food safety system is the fundamental aspect of cleaning and sanitising.
- Personal Hygiene
- The second pillar is probably the most important in terms of eliminating cross-contamination. Hand washing and clean hands awareness are critical to food safety.
- Food Storage
- The third pillar can be categorised into two areas
- Perishable foods (Cold storage)
- Dry goods
- Temperature Control
- The fourth pillar of food safety is a fundamental principle in preventing the growth of bacteria and ensuring the quality of food is maintained.
- Food Handling
- The fifth and final pillar of food safety related to how food is handled during storage and preparation. Food Handling carries the greatest risk when dealing with cross-contamination.
Using the food safety pillars is an essential way to prevent food poisoning. This system can be used in any kitchen, whether at home, hotel, restaurant, food truck or food factory.
How to practice food hygiene at home
Practice Good Personal Hygiene
Personal hygiene is a practice everyone should have. It is important to always wash your hands with soap and water before handling food to prepare.
Clean Utensils and Cooking Equipment
All cooking equipment should be properly cleaned and sanitised before starting any preparation. This is specifically important for equipment that comes into direct contact with food. Such as cutting boards, knives, countertops, mixers, blenders etc. These areas are known to harbour dangerous bacteria that when they get into foods that cause serious illness. All utensils and crockery need to be cleaned for the same reasons.
Keep Foods That Need to be Kept Cold in the Fridge:
Raw meats, dairy and others need to be kept cold (4°C – 39°F) in order to prevent bacteria from growing before you can consume the food. Keeping foods cold also ensures that your food does not expire before the use-by dates.
Separate Raw and Ready to Eat Foods
By its very nature, raw foods have bacteria present in them. This is why we need to cook most of our foods. There is no way you can keep cooked foods together with the raw. Foods such as meat, fish and fruits, soup and stew should be refrigerated/frozen in different sealed containers and they should be kept in a different compartment of the fridge to avoid cross-contamination which can occur through dripping.
After marinating fish or meat, do not use the same bowl or plate to serve food or place another food into it, you can only use the sauce to cook food but not to serve as food because it is raw and it will be unhealthy for your consumption.
Wash Fruits and Vegetables Before Use
Most fruits and vegetable are freshly purchased from the farm, store or market; these foods contain soil, insects and chemical residues in them, it is very important to rinse vegetables and fruit with water, salt or vinegar before storing them in the food rack.
Use Appropriate Kitchen Tools for Food Preparation
There are various kinds of kitchen tools/utensils designed for different purposes, make sure you use the right tool at the right time. For instance, a meat chopping board can easily serve as a growth medium for bacteria and mould, this can be seen growing on the surface or the edges if not properly washed after usage, use a different chopping board for cutting vegetables and other sensitive foods to prevent food poisoning and always wash and disinfect cutting tools.
Keep Dry Foods Separate From Liquids
Food safety should include dry goods such as grains, dried and powdered foods storage. Wet food attracts moulds easily. Grains, powdered, baked, and canned or dry foods should be properly stored away from liquid, as moulds can easily grow on them causing illness, allergy and food poisoning to both adults and kids.
Cook Food to an Appropriate Temperature
Cooking food to the required temperature is an important food safety practice, as raw foods like egg and meat can easily result in Salmonella and E.coli infections if not properly cooked. Foods such as pork, chicken, beef and processed meats like sausage should be cooked longer until there are no traces of pink on the flesh and joints and bones of such meats because bacteria can easily survive the cooking process in these areas.
Keep Insects and Pests Away From Food Areas
Insects and pests control is another important food hygiene tip to be taken into consideration, as these creatures are often seen in our houses, especially in places like the fridge corners, kitchen cupboard, shelves and at dark corners of the kitchen. Cockroaches, flies and rodents as we know are very terrible insects and pest; they can carry pathogens from one surface to another, which can lead to food-borne illness, for this reason, it is wise to always cover the pots containing foods, spray the shelves, clean our refrigerator when you notice any foul smell and dripping.
Always Use Clean Water to Prepare Food
Food hygiene is also an important practice to be carried out when washing, mixing and cooking food. Water has many ways of affecting our systems and our general health. Foods that are prepared with unsafe water can easily lead to vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach upsets, it is important to always use clean water to wash and cook food.
Clean the Kitchen and Mop the Floor After Each Food Preparation:
Keeping the kitchen clean can help keep flies, ants and cockroaches from coming in contact with your foods. Greasy areas help bacteria hide and cannot be eliminated without removing the grease. The stove or gas top should be properly wiped.
Keep Kitchen Towels, Sponges and Cleaning Cloths Clean and Replace Regularly
The kitchen and every tool or equipment in it should be washed and sanitised. Kitchen towels or sponges are very important items in the kitchen and are used on a daily basis to open hot lids, remove foods from the microwave or oven, bring down boiling soup from heat and wipe off food or water from our wet hands. Often times while using these towels, they get wet in the process which means that microorganisms can harbour on these damp surfaces, so it will be very proper to wash and sanitise and properly.