Buying more groceries and cooking more than usual? Tips on food safety

  • As we utilise our kitchens more during lockdown, the risk for food poisoning increases
  • Hand hygiene isn’t only vital to protect us against Covid-19, but is also effective against foodborne illnesses
  • Proper planning, food storage and kitchen hygiene will lower your risk of food poisoning

If you are buying more fresh produce at a time to minimise your trips to the shops during Covid-19, you might find yourself throwing more food away than usual, or find it challenging to store it.

You might also be preparing more homemade meals than usual, and storing more leftovers to eat at home if you are still working from home.

But not storing and preparing food properly can lead to food poisoning. Here are some tips to safeguard your kitchen (and keep you away from the doctor with stomach ailments).

1. Plan and prepare

Avoid food wastage by planning your meals ahead and shopping accordingly. This will not only save you unnecessary trips to the supermarket during the Covid-19 pandemic, but it will also help prevent food from going to waste.

2. Store your food properly

Unpack your groceries as soon as you arrive home. Food bacteria such as salmonella grow optimally between temperatures of 5°C and 60°C. Ensure that high-risk foods such as raw chicken is placed in the fridge or freezer as soon as possible.

Ensure that raw meats are always kept below vegetables or other products in the fridge to avoid dripping and cross-contamination. While tinned foods are safe pantry staples for many households and can be kept in the cupboard for long periods, they need to be properly stored in airtight containers in the fridge as soon as you open the can.

3. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after preparing food

Good hand hygiene isn’t only vital for avoiding Covid-19 infection, but will also safeguard you against bacteria in the kitchen. Wash your hands with soap and warm water and dry them properly before handling raw vegetables and meat, especially after unpacking groceries, touching the rubbish bin or touching your animals.

This will avoid raw food being contaminated with potentially harmful bacteria such as E.coli, salmonella and other bacteria. Also, wash your hands after handling raw chicken and before touching other surfaces in the kitchen.

4. Don’t be lazy with leftovers

We tend to think that we're safe from food poisoning when food has been cooked, but this is not always the case. When you are batch-cooking dishes such as soups and casseroles and there are leftovers, ensure that they're cooled properly before placing in the refrigerator. When food is still boiling hot, the rapid drop in temperature can increase the risk of salmonella.

But don’t leave it out for too long, as bacteria can start to multiply at room temperature. Place cooked leftovers in shallow, smaller containers and let the steam escape before covering them.

5. Keep your kitchen squeaky-clean

Wipe all surfaces down with hot soapy water before and after preparing food. Use two chopping boards – one for raw meats and one for fruits and vegetables to avoid cross-contamination. Wash all dishcloths and kitchen towels regularly and let them air dry properly before using, as a damp kitchen cloth or dirty kitchen towel can be a hot spot for bacteria.

READ | How to avoid food poisoning

READ | What to do when a child is vomiting non-stop

READ | Nausea and vomiting

Image credit: August Richelieu from Pexels

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