Though it is springtime, in many locales, the temperatures on the outskirts are screaming summer. And, although we love the carefree days of summer, we also have the pitfalls of the season to deal with. Unfortunately, it’s during the warm months that foodborne illnesses are heightened and widespread.
Based on statistics from health organizations, millions become affected, thousands are hospitalized and sadly, even deaths occur. The reason for these occurrences is that some food handlers, in home and restaurants don’t practice proper hygiene, thus causing cross contamination of foods.
In addition, harmful bacteria, parasites, etc find their way into raw foods at the slaughter-house, during packaging, etc. And these thrive in warm climate. The warm months are the opportune time for them to multiply. Unfortunately, this is the time that many of us will be attending picnics, barbeques and other outdoor events where different type of foods are prepared and cooked.
Just thinking about these outcomes can make us cringe and feel rather helpless. But, there’s no need. With the help of a few practices and habits in respect of the preparation, handling, storing, and cooking we can have a safe and happy summer for all and sundry. Some of the tips we can employ are:
Shopping/storing/handling of foods:
- Shopping/packing – make sure to keep similar foods in the same bag. For instance, try to separate foods like dairy, raw meats,fish, poultry, fruits and vegetables in their individual group packages.
- Try and invest in a cooler. This is very helpful to trek around so as to keep perishables as cool as possible until you arrive home with goods.
- When you arrive home with perishables, store meat, poultry, fish in smaller packages in order to avoid thawing of an entire big package later. And remember to turn down the thermostat inside the refrigerator in order to keep food cool.
- When cooking, aim for thawing in the refrigerator overnight. Place raw foods on a plate on the lowest shelf away from fruits, vegetables and other foods.
- Keep eggs in original containers so as to avoid deterioration.
- Preparation and cooking of meals – Keep separate cut board for fruits/vegetables and raw meats, poultry and fish.
- Thoroughly rinse fruits and veggies before partaking.
- After peeling fruits like watermelon, cantaloupes, etc. try to use separate knives for cutting and slicing. Or, if using the same knife, make sure to rinse thoroughly before slicing.
Cleaning and sanitizing:
One quick and inexpensive way to keep bacteria and other germs at bay is to:
- Use separate cutting boards for raw meats, seafood, poultry and fruits and vegetables.
- Use separate utensils to handle raw and cooked protein when cooking.
- Wash cutting boards,sink and surrounding counter areas with warm soapy water with a cap full of bleach and rinse with fresh water.
- Sponges are breathing ground for bacteria. Toss in sponges in dishwasher every couple of days. Or, place inside microwave for a few minutes so as to eradicate germs.
- Clean microwave oven by placing a cut of lemon in dish with water for a few minutes. Then wipe clean the area of any built-up or spilled foods.
Spring and summer are carefree seasons of the year. They shouldn’t be spent in the emergency room/hospital. With a few commonsense moves, we can have seasons devoid of catastrophes and more of great fun and laughter with loved ones.