Food Health & Safety Tips

It doesn’t matter if you are making a family dinner or grabbing a fast lunch during work, food plays into our lives every day.  A healthy breakfast, lunch or dinner are mainstays for good health.  A lot of families try their best to eat what is right for them and their children by eating lots of vegetables and fruits and being picky about the meats they choose but do not realize they probably are not cooking these foods the right way.

Why Food Safety Matters

We all know how important it is to keep our food and prep area safe and clean.  When you cook every day, it becomes tempting to start to cut corners when you are in a hurry and cloud the dedication to be as safe about our food.  Is it that important for our fruit to be cleaned that much before we eat it?  And what really could happen if you don’t cook those steaks to 145 degrees F?

It all comes down to the bacteria that like to grow in your food.  If you don’t follow the directions to proper cooking, then you are running a risk that could expose your family to the bacterial pathogens.  By eating any spoiled or bacterial contaminated food will increase your chances of food poisoning.

Separate by Sections

When you are in the grocery store and thinking about what you are going to cook for the week, and are gathering up all your ingredients, do not cross-contaminate your food.  Do not mix your fresh vegetables and fruits with the raw meats.  Don’t put your asparagus with your tomatoes.  Never put raw fish or meat with any dry ingredients as this cross contamination can cause bacterial growth.

To be sure your food stays safe, while you are shopping, keep your raw meats in a safety bag.  You can use re-usable grocery bags, but pick only one and dedicate it for your raw proteins and do not put anything else in it.

Fridge or Freezer?

Once you get home from the grocery store, it is just easier to throw everything in your fridge.  Or, if you are going to cook it that night, don’t put it away, but not true always.

For your chilled food, such as raw proteins, dairy products, and eggs, put them in the fridge.  For your produce, if you got it from a section of the market that stays chilled and water is spritzed over it ever so often, place them in the fridge.  If it came from a large rack (like potatoes), then it is safe to leave out until you are ready to use it.

Your freezer is not to be used just for frozen foods like sherbert.  It is a good place for things that won’t be used soon, as your raw proteins.  If you have shopped for the whole week and bought chicken to cook for next Saturday, then put that chicken in the freezer.  Otherwise there is a good chance it could spoil before you would use it.  Remember to defrost all food out the right way; either by leaving it in your fridge overnight or placing in a warm (not hot) water bath several hours before you cook it.

Wash Thoroughly

While you are cooking, wash your hands beforehand and several times while cooking.  It is especially true when we handle different foods and raw proteins.  Make sure your ingredients and your cooking tools are clean as well.  Before you chop your vegetables, rinse them with water.  Make sure you prepare all of your produce before anything else.  After the raw produce is set aside, then you can start working on your raw protein.

Keeping the Right Temperatures

So, now you have your food washed and prepared, the tools you are using are cleaned, your hands are clean, it is time to cook.  It is time to cook the fruits and vegetables, cook them until they are at the tenderness you want them.  Your raw protein will need to be cooked to a required temperature to kill the bacteria to keep it safe to eat.  Having a good thermometer is the best way to know the temperature of your meats.

Here is a quick guide on some of the common temperatures for meats:

  • Lamb, fish, pork, and beef cooked to 145°F
  • Above ground, meats cooked to 160°F
  • Duck, chicken, turkey, cooked to 165°F
  • Above ground, poultry cooked to 165°F

Safe Storage

If you are working on weekly meal prepping and storing leftovers, make sure you are storing all the meals correctly.  Using sealed containers with their tight-fitting lids are the best and being sure they are appropriately cleaned before placing your meals in them is the safest.  Always make sure there are no cracks or leaking in your storage containers.  Keep all of them in the fridge to eat later has to be done, and all leftovers need to be placed in the fridge within 2 hours after they have been finished cooking.

When it comes to packing lunches for you or your kids, make sure the lunchboxes are well insulated so they can keep cool temps and have a fresh frozen cool pack added every day.  You want to do this even for peanut butter sandwiches and chips.  Keeping things cold is a way to make sure there will be no bacteria growing.

Food poisoning is serious business, and if you are the least bit suspicious you or a loved one might have contracted any of the food poisoning bacterias, do not hesitate to visit us at the Bellaire Emergency Room.  Food poisoning can cause quick dehydration and in some cases septicemia.