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Keeping food safe at home

Whether you are running a large commercial kitchen or preparing food in the home kitchen the same rules apply when it comes to keeping food safe and people protected from food poisoning.

Keep it clean

Everything that food comes into contact with should be clean, whether that is work surfaces, chopping boards, containers or utensils. Everything should be washed and cleaned with hot soapy water, clean cloths, sponges (or other cleaning materials), and ideally for work surfaces followed up with a disinfectant spray and wipe dry.

Sinks and taps and other hand contact points should also be cleaned properly as these are places which become dirty and can help spread bacteria from hands onto food.

Cleaning cloths should be changed and washed frequently, and cleaning sponges changed regularly. These will contain all sorts of bacteria following cleaning and can spread these bacteria further round the kitchen if care is not taken.

Always wash and properly dry your hands before handling food and always after handling raw meat, fish, eggs and vegetables, emptying bins, using cleaning chemicals etc. Change hand towels regularly - damp and dirty towels are a great way to pass bacteria back onto your clean hands. Never prepare food for others if you are unwell e.g. stomach upset, suffering from diarrhoea, heavy colds etc.

Avoid cross contamination - keep raw and ready to eat food separate

Raw food can carry lots of harmful bacteria. This is not a problem if we know how to handle it correctly. Many times people get ill because poor handling, preparation and storage of food leads to ready to eat food becoming contaminated with the bacteria from raw food.

The first step in prevention should be when you buy your food. When packing and bringing food home, try and keep raw meat separate from any ready to eat food that you have bought.

When you get food home make sure that raw and ready to eat foods are kept separate. In your fridge keep raw food on the bottom and ready to eat food above it. This will help prevent any leaks etc. contaminating ready to eat food. Keep food covered in the fridge.

When preparing food follow the tips for cleaning and hand washing. Also it is best to use different chopping boards, containers and utensils for raw and ready to eat foods. If you can't they should be thoroughly cleaned in between using.

Never wash meat or poultry in the sink. This increases the amount of bacteria that get onto sinks and close by surfaces. It does not provide any benefit to the safety of the food either. If you are washing raw vegetables in the sink then make sure you give the sink a good clean, including tap handles etc. afterwards.

Keep it cold

It is important to keep food at the correct temperature to control the safety and quality of the food. If food needs to be kept in the fridge then it should generally be kept colder than 5 degrees centigrade. You can buy a simple thermometer to check the temperature of your fridge.

Freezers need to keep food colder than minus 18 degrees centigrade. You can check this with the same thermometer you use for your fridge.

Bacteria continue to grow on food in the fridge, and so it is important that you keep an eye on use by dates, or the instructions on the label of the food to see how long it should be kept after opening. These instructions are intended to keep you safe, but a lot of people will be concerned about throwing out food which appears to be okay even if it is beyond its date. If you are concerned about this and want to find out some helpful tips to prevent food waste then visit the Love Food Hate Waste Scotland website

Cook, Cool and Reheat safely

Bacteria are killed by high temperature. Always make sure that any food being cooked or re-heated is piping hot throughout. Always check minced meat products (burgers, sausages etc.) and poultry (chicken, turkey etc.) to ensure there are no pink bits and meat juices run clear after cooking. If necessary keep cooking until cooked through properly.

If you need to cool food to serve cold later, or re-heat at another time then do this as quickly as possible. Find a cool place and put food into smaller amounts (if possible), and try and get the food cool enough to go into the fridge or freezer within 2 hours or sooner.

Seasonal food safety at home

Barbecue Safety

All the rules for preparing food in the kitchen will apply to preparing food outdoors, but there are some different issues to address when preparing and cooking food outside. The Food Standards Agency website contains some helpful advice on how to do this safely. Food Standards Scotland have also launched a summer campaign to help ensure that special care is taken when handling and cooking chicken. Visit the Nothing Spoils Summer Like Pink Chicken webpages for more information.

Food Safety at Christmas

Christmas is a time of year when we prepare, handle and store a lot more food than any other time of the year. It is a time to be enjoyed and to celebrate and the last thing anyone wants is to become ill as a result of food poisoning. A lot of the rules to keep us safe have already been covered in the sections above, but some other considerations for food at this time of year can be found on the NHS website