It is that time of the year and with the holidays comes festive eating. Therefore, before you shop for all the goodies, here are some things you will need to remember.
Food safety is important year around, but during the holidays it becomes increasingly important. That is mainly due to preparation of larger meals, improper storage of food at room temperature and overloading the refrigerators. Follow these simple guidelines to have a happy holiday season with fewer visits to the doctor:
- Shop smart: always check for Expiry/ Best before/ sell by/ use by dates on food packaging before buying.
- Plan your meals:Choose food that can be served safely under planned activities. Make sure that you have chafing dishes, warming trays or other equipment to keep hot food at 60°C or higher. Keep cold food nested in bowls of ice to maintain them at 5°C or below. If you can’t store them hot or cold before, don’t serve.
- Good sanitation:Poor sanitation in the kitchen and storage space, such as refrigerators can cause more problems as you are preparing larger amounts of food.
- Cross-contamination:Any surface that food comes in contact with is a source of contamination. Make sure that cooking utensils, dishes, chopping boards and your hands are thoroughly washed between tasks. For example, wash the chopping board, knives and your hands after slicing meat but before preparing salad on the same surface. When buying raw meat and poultry, wrap in a plastic bag so meat juices don’t drip on other food in the shopping cart.
- Safe temperatures:Store food in the refrigerator to ensure temperature below 5° Keep a thermometer in sight to periodically check the safe temperature. Do not overload the refrigerator at one time. Stock what you need or buy fresh items as needed. Save grocery shopping as the last item on your task list for the day, to allow you to refrigerate cold food immediately.
Preparing meals for the holidays:
- The best way to thaw is in the refrigerator. When thawing large amounts, allow 24 hours per 2kg. So if you have a 10kg meat, it may take five days in the refrigerator. If you are in a hurry, thaw it in the microwave oven. Be sure to cook it immediately if food is thawed in the microwave.
- Use Safe water and raw material for cooking
- Cooking:You can’t tell it’s done by how it looks! Cooked food is safe only after it’s been heated to a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria. Colour and texture alone won’t tell you whether your food is done. Use a food thermometer.
- Serving:Once cooked, please serve meals within two hours for holiday fun. Do not leave cooked meals at room temperatures for more than two hours.
Leftovers: Put all leftovers in small covered containers so they cool quickly when placed in the refrigerator or freezer. If you store it in the refrigerator, use it within 3 to 4 days. Freezing will allow you more days (up to thirty days) to use the leftovers. Stuffing and gravy will only last 1 to 2 days in the refrigerator. Never taste food that looks or smells strange to see if you can still use it. When in doubt, throw it out.