There are more than a million cases of food poisoning in the UK each year. You might consider that most food poisoning is from ‘dodgy’ restaurants and takeaways however there’s no specific evidence that food eaten out is any more likely to cause food poisoning than food prepared at home. The habits we pick up from friends and family don’t always ensure food is produced safely at home. As well as expecting good hygiene standards when eating out, we should also think about how to do things better at home.
Use the Kitchen Checklist to review your own kitchen habits. It’s a simple tool that will help you to find out if your kitchen habits are putting you, or your family and friends, at risk of food poisoning.
Hands are one of the main ways in which germs are spread. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before cooking and after touching the bin, going to the toilet, handling pets or handling raw food.
Wash or change dish cloths, tea towels, sponges and oven gloves regularly and let them dry before you use them again. Dirty, damp cloths are the perfect place for bacteria to breed.
Cross contamination occurs when harmful germs are spread between food, surfaces and equipment. Help to prevent this by removing clutter that you don’t need and washing worktops before and after cooking.
Always use a chopping board. Wash the board and other utensils in hot, soapy water when you’ve finished using them and in between preparing raw foods (meat, poultry, eggs, fish and raw vegetables) and ready-to-eat food. Better still, use a separate chopping board for each.
Make sure your fridge is set below 5°C, using a fridge thermometer to check. This is to prevent harmful germs from growing and multiplying.
Don’t overfill your fridge. This allows air to circulate and maintains the set temperature.
Store raw meat and poultry at the bottom of the fridge and properly wrap or cover it to avoid raw juices contaminating other foods.
Cook food thoroughly until it is steaming hot in the middle. This will kill any harmful bacteria that may be present.
‘Use by’ dates are found on perishable products, such as dairy, meat and fish, and are based on scientific testing to determine how long these foods will stay safe. After that date, food could be unsafe to eat even if it is stored correctly and looks and smells fine.
‘Best before’ dates are used on foods that have a longer shelf life and tell us how long the food will be at its best. After that date it is normally safe to eat, but its flavour and texture might have deteriorated.