Only a "Dumb Bunny" wouldn't LEARN to handle food properly!  

 

Let's get serious! 

You have to be FOODSAFE when working with food
This page is a mini course in safe food handling - VERY IMPORTANT Information!!

The Main Causes of Food Borne Sickness are:

  Humans    
  Bacteria
  Insects, Rodents, Parasites
  Chemicals

Test YOUR foodsafe I.Q. with the questions below!

Q.  As long as food smells all right, looks good and tastes good, it's perfectly ok, right?
A.  Not necessarily!  Food doesn't have to be visibly 'rotten' to carry disease causing pathogens - those things that cause food poisoning.  Pathogens that cause food poisoning are often odorless, and tasteless.  
Q.  What's that word 'pathogen'?
A.  Pathogen,  is the term that refers to anything that is disease causing.  Examples of what might be disease causing things in foods are microbes such as bacteria, viruses, fungi (molds) parasites, protozoa as well as chemicals (insecticides) and foreign objects such as hair or glass.
Q. What sort of bacteria or disease causing things are we really taking about?
A. Well, most of us have heard of Salmonella, and e-coli, there are also things like hepatitis A, Staph, and botulism as well as lots more.
Q.  Food poisoning, isn't really common is it?
A.  Did you know there is no such thing as '24 hour flu'.  If you or anyone you know has had this disease, they have actually had food poisoning!  Food poisoning is very common and often unrecognized.  Serious food poisoning, thankfully isn't as common,  it can leave people permanently damaged (lungs, kidneys) or even kill people.  However all food poisoning is potentially fatal, especially to children, pregnant women, the elderly or people with weakened immune systems.
Q.  I've cooked for years and had no problems and I'm not planning on opening a restaurant,  I'm just having a party, so why should I be concerned about this.
A.  If you are not familiar with handling large amounts of food, it's very easy for these foods to become contaminated through incorrect handling, which would allow bacteria to grow undetected.  Those bacteria could in turn, produce toxins or 'food poison' and could make a lot of people very sick.  In some areas, it's against the law to have a pot luck dinner in a church or hall.  This is the result of some nasty food poisonings over the years.  If you are planning on cooking large amounts of food for any functions, you'd better become 'foodsafe'.
Q.  OK, I don't want bacteria to grow in my food, how do I prevent this.
A.  Bacteria need ideal conditions to grow in food.  Unfortunately, it's really easy to create these conditions.  Bacteria need warmth, moisture and nutrients.   All the things WARM  food provides.
Q.  So what do I do now, all the food on the buffet is going to be warm.
A.  You want the food to be either COLD or HOT,  NEVER WARM.  The magic numbers are 40 deg. F. (4 deg. C.) the temp. of your fridge, or 140 deg. F. (60 deg. C.) the temperature which the hot food should be,  which can be maintained by a steam table, electric roaster, crock pot, chaffing dish etc.
Q. So that's all I have to do, keep the food hot or cold?
A.  There is a little more to it than that.  You have to cool and chill the food quickly, fast enough to not allow bacteria to multiply.  When reheating foods, you have to heat them rapidly to 170 deg. F.  (77 deg. C.) then hold them at 140 deg.  
For example, if you were making a BIG potato salad, you need to dice and chill the potatoes quickly by spreading them in a large shallow pan.  Once the potatoes are cooled and chilled to fridge temperature, then you can combine them with other COLD ingredients.  If you combined the ingredients for the potato salad while warm and then placed the entire salad in the fridge, it could take up to 20 hrs. depending on the size of the salad, for the center of the salad to reach 40 deg. F.  All the while bacteria would be multiplying or doubling every 20 min. until you have zillions of the nasty little creatures creating wastes (toxins) which are the poisons in the food.  Now do you get the idea?
Q.  So if I make a hot dish ahead of time, I can cool it on the counter, then put it in the fridge and reheat it in a chafing dish the next day?
A. Definitely not like that.  When you cook something hot, it must be cooled quickly, so bacteria don't have a chance to multiply and then it must be refrigerated. If you are making a big batch of something hot, you might have to divide it up into several pans and stir, to cool it quickly, or set in into a pan of ice before refrigerating it.  When you want to serve it, you must reheat it quickly to 170 deg. F. THEN place it in a hot holding device that will keep it at 140 deg. Big amounts of food take way longer to cool than your everyday casserole for 6 people.
Q.  I don't have a hot table or a chaffing dish, so what do I do now?
A.  If you are having a big function, you can rent things like chaffing dishes etc., or if your food is 'piping hot' right from the oven, you can place hot casseroles on the buffet table, however those hot dishes can't sit out for an extended period of time. Have you noticed that buffets are always cleared away right away?  That's so the food won't go 'bad' and not allowing food poisonings to happen.
Q. So how do all these pathogens or bacteria get into the food, when my kitchen is clean?
A. Lots of ways!  Sometimes the food ingredients are already contaminated, such as eggs, chicken, ground beef, melons, or the biggest contaminate is HUMANS, unclean hands, putting it bluntly 'stool to mouth' contamination.  The result can be upset stomach, violent diarrhea, vomiting several hours after eating.
Q. Gross!  How are humans the biggest contaminant?
A.  When you are handling food, you and all volunteers, (that's the hard part to control - other people who are helping) hand washing with SOAP and WATER and drying with PAPER TOWELS, can reduce contamination by 80%.  Be honest, do you wash your hands thoroughly each time you go to the bathroom at home,  when you handle the garbage, or wipe off the counter with a 'germ filled' dish cloth??  That's how things get contaminated, when food that is being prepared is touched by unwashed hands and bacteria are added to the food.  Toilet paper offers little protection, especially if someone is a carrier of disease or has a tummy upset.  
Tip: Don't use anti bacterial soap, it's ineffective and hard on your hands.
Q.  So should I be using disposable gloves to handle the food?
A.  Not necessarily, they would be great if you are tossing a salad 'with your hands'.  But other than that, they get just as dirty as your hands and would need washing too.  
Disposable gloves or finger stalls are required to be worn if you have a cut on your hand. 
If you have an infected cut, DO NOT HANDLE FOOD, this can pass on a Staph infection to other people (so can pimples that you 'pick' with your fingers) which may result in upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhea several hours after the food is consumed. Clean hands are the best.
Q. How are melons dangerous?
A.  That one was sort of a surprise to me too!  But when you think about it the outside of the melons are exposed to so many possible contaminates, just about everything bacteria, salmonella and pesticides too!  So scrub them off with soap and water and treat them as 'dirty' until they are well cleaned.  Don't cut into a melon until it has been washed, or the knife may transfer dirt and bacteria from the outside to the clean surface inside.
Q.  So what's all the fuss about chicken, eggs, and ground beef.  Once in a long while someone dies of E. coli from ground beef, but one out of millions, really.  I can remember when restaurants served ground beef burgers cooked  medium unless requested otherwise.  What's the big deal?
A.  Mutations! That one word says it all.  Twenty years ago, we just didn't have the problem.  E. coli is everywhere now in beef production and there are many different stains of it.  You can be almost certain that there is e-coli in almost all ground beef that you purchase.  Likewise there is salmonella in almost all chicken/turkey that your purchase, it's in the chicken's food, it's inside there digestive track, it can be on the egg shells too.  It has become a different world.
Q.  So now you have my attention, how can I avoid all these things?
A. Proper food handling, and hand washing are the big things.
Q.  How do I handle the chicken and turkey?
A.  Assume all poultry flesh is contaminated. When you are handling chicken or turkey, have a mild solution of bleach and water on hand( 1 oz. per gal.)  Wipe down all counters, wash equipment and utensils that have been in contact with the chicken in hot soap water then dip in a bleach solution for two minutes to sanitize.  Watch for drips of 'chicken juice'.  Do not use any utensils or cutting boards etc. for anything else until they have been sanitized with a bleach solution.  Cook poultry until it's well done, use a thermometer to be sure.
Even pre-portioned, pre-frozen boneless chicken breast pieces can be contaminated, ANY uncooked poultry, assume it is contaminated.
Q. Ok so what's the bad news about the eggs?
A. Simply put, they come out of the messed up chickens, so they can be contaminated too.  Use an egg separator when separating eggs, don't use the shell to shell method, they shell could be contaminated.  If an egg is cracked, throw it out.
Don't use raw eggs in desserts or eggnogs.  If you are using eggs for a breakfast or for lots of baking, get processed pasteurized eggs, they come in a 'milk' carton, ready to pour.  For groups for big breakfasts, you can get 'boil in a bag' scrambled eggs, and you don't have to handle them at all.  Just cook them up, they will hold for too, and you mash them up with a potato mashed.  Couldn't be easier! It's what the restaurants use.
Q.  This is getting interesting, now what about the beef?
A.  Well, it's the ground beef that has the problem.  The e. coli stains have mutated and although some are not harmful, there are some stains that are very harmful.  Assume all ground beef is contaminated with e. coli, most of it is.  Make sure that all ground beef is well cooked, and again, like the chicken, clean all surfaces, wash your hands often, and sanitized all utensils etc. in the same manor as you would for the chicken (see above).  This will prevent cross contamination.
E. coli, causes bloody urine, bloody stools, kidney damage and failure,  a hospital stay, it's a dreadful thing, it tends to kill children.
Q. What exactly is cross contamination?
A.  That's when you pass bacteria or organisms from one food or utensil to another.  It might be from going to the bathroom and not washing your hands, to coughing into your hands and not washing them then touching the food, to cutting uncooked chicken on a cutting board and then cutting a cucumber on the same board.  It could be wiping your hands on your apron after touching  raw ground beef and then later wiping your hand on your apron that now has e. coli on it then picking up some other food item (maybe even a hamburger bun) and then serving a hamburger with cross contamination, the e. coli on the OUTSIDE of the hamburger.  Even stacking up dishes on top of one another, if the bottom of one has been sitting on a dirty counter.  Keep things clean!
Q. Are you trying to give me a "Howard Hughes Complex"?
A.  Not at all, relax!  You don't have to become paranoid about contamination.  Just become very aware of how food can be or is contaminated.  
~Remember to WASH your HANDS frequently, dry on paper towels. 
~Be aware that most contamination is found or happens in protein foods, meats, eggs, milk, cheese, fish, dairy products, soups, stews, casseroles, cooked grains and pastas.
~Wash the dishes properly.  (rinse, hot soapy water, rinse, bleach solution of 1 oz. per gallon of water for 3 min. soaking to sanitize and kill all pathogens, air dry)
~Keep food either HOT or COLD.  
~Heat or CHILL food RAPIDLY
~Don't keep food for more than 3 days.  
~Food should not be at room temp. for more than a total (prep time included) of 2 hours.
~ Never use a can of food that is bulged or dinted, it can contain botulism.  The budge indicates a deadly growth inside the can.
~Make sure all volunteers are aware of how to properly handle large amounts of food.  
~ No pets in the kitchen.

The 'old ways' are no longer safe!

 

This is just a little bit about safe food handling, I hope you have found it informative.  Here in B.C. Canada, we have new regulations in place for food handlers.  One person per shift must have a Food Safe Certificate, they must have taken Food Safe Level 1, even volunteer cooks for sidewalk hot dog sales, Church dinners etc. too, must have take a Food Safe Course!

If you are preparing food for a crowd on a regular basis, I would suggest you take a Food Safe course.  If you don't have access to one, here's more in-depth info into  Food Safety - Cheers, Dayle

Did you know flies vomit on food, before they eat it!

  [GROWLIES Main INDEX ] [  Recipe and Party Message Board ]
Catering Connections - Links for Caterers ] [ Self Catering Page ]