In support of World Food Safety Day we’ve put together an article covering food safety for our kids. Share this with your kids!
Bacteria are very small (microscopic) organisms that grow in all kinds of environments. Many people know bacteria as germs, but germs can also include viruses and parasites. In this case we will refer to germs in the general sense but we will specifically look at the characteristics of bacteria as they have the most affect on food safety.
Much like humans and animals germs need water, food and time to grow strong and they also need the right conditions.
Animals can grow very slowly in very cold or very hot conditions and can also grow very fast when they have the right set of environmental conditions. The same is true for germs. Here after we will look at the top 9 control points that we can use in our day to day lives to help control germs and stop them from hurting us.
1. Temperature control
- Germs need certain temperatures to grow well. Most germs that we are worried about grow very well at temperatures of between 20 and 45 degrees Celsius (°C) but some germs can grow at temperatures below and above this range
- Germs grow very slowly at temperatures below 4°C and some stop growing or can even die at below negative 12°C (-12°C)
- Most germs that we are worried about also grow very slowly and will die if they are kept for a long time at 60°C or above
- Almost all germs that we will come across in our day to day lives will die if boiled at 100°C
- For your interest, in the food industry fully sterile food (food that has no live germs inside) can be made by heating the food to above 121°C
- So if you want your food at home or at school to be safe, the food must be stored and/or cooked to the above temperatures so that we can control the germs and stop them from making us sick.
2. Cross contamination
- If germs are kept in their normal natural environments and conditions. They are naturally controlled by the environment as the environment is in, what we call, a state of equilibrium or balance.
- If germs move out of their balance into an environment that might give them better conditions, they may grow much faster. This movement from one environment to another is called cross-contamination.
- When making and storing food, cross-contamination must be prevented by storing and handing all different food types separately and by stopping dirt from getting into the foods, (dirt is an environment too!!!)
- The following tips can help control this:
- Handle and store raw meat, fish and chicken on their own. Store them in sealed containers.
- Do not wash animal products in your sink, because they have lots of germs on and the splashing of the water can cause cross-contamination to the rest of your kitchen
- Wash all equipment after processing raw meats and fish (see below for cleaning)
- Handle raw vegetables on their own and wash them before you handle them. Also do not wash them under running water. Rather wash them in a bowl of water and change the water when it gets cloudy.
3. Storage of cold food
- Some of the standards for Temperature control for germs we talked about in point 1 above.
- For fridges and freezers here are some tips:
- All fridges must be set to hold the foods at 4°C or below
- All freezers must be set to hold the foods at -12°C or below. If you have ice-cream the freezer must be at -18°C or below
Store all different food types in separate containers in the fridge, and store the most dangerous (raw meats and fish) on the lowest shelf in your fridge. This is to stop cross-contamination
- All foods must be in sealed containers to stop cross-contamination
- From top to bottom of your fridge the following order should be used:
- Top shelf: Dairy, cooked foods, ready to eat foods, pickled foods, etc
- Middle shelf: Raw vegetables, unwashed salad vegetables
- Bottom shelf: Raw meats and fish
Keep an eye on expiry dates of foods, especially if you are making food for other people.
4. Personal hygiene
- We all carry germs all the time. It does not mean we are sick or dirty, it is just natural for us to carry germs.
- If we touch our faces, go to the toilet, throw rubbish away, clean something or handle raw meat or dirty foods (raw veg) we can get lots of germs on our hands, and some of those germs can make us very sick.
- If we touch other food with our dirty hands we can then cause cross-contamination.
- To stop causing cross-contamination we must wash our hands a lot during the day and especially after we get our hands dirty from the doing something mentioned in point 4)b) above
- Hands should be washed as follows:
- Rinse hands with water so all big pieces of dirt are removed
- Put soap on our hands and rub the soap into our hands, between our fingers, into our nails and around our wrists. (if we are making food for other people it is a good idea to use a germ killing soap)
- Rinse all the soap off our hands using clean water
- Dry our hands using a clean towel, or it is even better to use a clean piece of paper towel.
- As mentioned before, germs need time to grow strong.
- Because of this, we must clean all of our equipment and tables after every preparation step to not allow the germs time to grow and cause cross-contamination.
- To clean our surfaces and big equipment:
- Wipe off all big pieces of dirt and food
- Use a surface cleaning soap to clean off all grease and stuck dirt
- Rinse off the surfaces with clean water
- If you are making food for other people, the surfaces should be sprayed with a germ killing chemical, like a food safe sanitiser, in the last step.
- To clean our pots, pans and utensils
- Clean items in a sink that is filled with hot water and dish washing detergent
- Rinse the items in a sink that is filled with hot water
- Allow the items to air dry before they are stored
- If you are making food for other people the rinse water should be dosed with a germ killing chemical, like the one mentioned in point 5)c)iv). The cutting boards should also be sprayed with the same germ killing chemical
- Do not use metal scourers or steel wool. The pieces can break off and cause “physical cross-contamination”.
- ALWAYS wash your hands after you have finished cleaning
6. Storage of dry foods
- All dry food ingredients must be stored covered and in a cool room or cupboard
- Containers of foods must be clean
- If we open sauces, we must read the label and see if the sauce must be put in the fridge after opening
- Check the expiry dates on dry foods, especially if we are making foods for other people.
7. Waste management
- Waste food should be thrown away regularly and should be stored in closed bins to stop pest from looking for the food because of the smell from the bin
- ALWAYS wash our hands after touching a bin, throwing away waste and clearing away
8. Pest management
- Keep doors and windows closed or covered with fly screens to their edges
- Flies, cockroaches, rats, cats and birds all carry germs on their bodies, in their waste and in their mouths
- Even at home, our pets should be kept away from our food handling and storage areas because we do not know where they have been or what they have been eating, catching or licking
- ALWAYS wash our hands after touching our pets or their toys
- Do not use spray pest control chemicals on our surfaces or in our kitchen area while we are preparing food, and don not spray the chemical near food storage areas. This can cause “chemical cross-contamination”
- If we are making foods for other people it is best to have a professional pest control company treat our food facility with food safe pest chemicals.
- If we do not know about food safety we cannot do what we must to make our food safe
- We must learn as much as we can from our bosses, parents, friends and the internet so we can have the knowledge and skills to make our food safe.
- Temperature control
- Hot food 60°C
- Cold food 4°C
- Danger zone 20-45°C
- Cross contamination
- Separate processing (RAW MEATS)
- Cleaning between
- Cold food storage
- Separate storage
- Closed storage
- Personal hygiene
- Wash hands regularly
- Use clean water and towels and the right soaps
- All surfaces and large equipment
- All small equipment, pots and cutting boards
- After every use
- Storage of dry foods
- Sealed and clean
- Waste management
- Regular waste removal
- Store sealed
- Wash after
- Pest management
- Closed kitchen area
- Chemical control