Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Beat Food Borne Bugs

washing tomatoesThe summer heat is on. In the forthcoming months the sun will grow hotter and we need to be extra careful in handling food. It is no coincidence that during summers, every year we see an increase in instances of food-borne illness. Food not stored properly can be harmful. It can become a breeding house for bacteria, virus or fungi—the food spoilers! Most cases of food-borne illness can be prevented through proper cooking or processing of food, which kills bacteria.

Safe food handling tenets

Wash

  • Scrupulous washing of fruits and vegetables are a must before we eat them. You can use a soft vegetable brush to wash tubers like potatoes. For berries and grapes dunk them in a vessel of water and gently clean them.
  • Wash fruits that you peel like bananas and oranges along with thick-skinned watermelons, cantaloupes and a pineapples too. The surface is always contaminated with bacteria and slicing or eating it without washing provides pesky bugs with an opportunity to contaminate the fruit too. For similar reasons wash milk bags before you tear them open in a pan to boil.
  • It may sound strange but wash eggs before you crack them open for omlettes or scrambled eggs. Chicken faeces may cling to egg surface and cracking it open can contaminate the internal contents, giving rise to Salmonella infection. This infection can kill if it enters bloodstream, it can also cause arthritis and Reiter’s syndrome (inflammation of joints and tendons).
  • Before handling food always wash your hands with soap, long enough to sing “Happy Birthday” song mentally.
  • Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counters with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next food.

Cook

  • Cook food items thoroughly. Go for hardboiled eggs. While cooking meat burgers, see that the thickest portion of the burger is well done.
  • Use good old pressure cooker for cooking food, because it allows food to heat to the optimum levels. Also it allows the nutritious juices to stew in the gravy.
  • Avoid undercooked eggs found in salads or salad dressings.
    Separate
  • Separate raw animal products from fruits and vegetables even in the grocery cart and in the refrigerator at home.
  • Put cooked meat on a clean platter, rather back on one that held the raw meat.

Refrigerate

  • Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food, and leftovers within 2 hours.
  • Divide large amounts of leftovers into small, shallow containers for quick cooling in the refrigerator.
  • Do not pack the refrigerator. Cool air must circulate to keep food safe.
  • Try freezing cooked items in separate airtight containers. Make sure your containers have a tight seal, because the less air around the food, the less chance of bacteria finding it.

Remember that

  • While buying fruits and vegetables look for ones that look fresh and opt for crisp greens.
  • Divide foods cooked in bulk to last a number of meals at the outset. This will ensure that you take out only that day’s serving. Also it will avoid contaminating the whole lot. While 24 hours supply can stay in refrigerator, foods used after 24 hours should go in freezer.
  • Do not allow food to thaw on kitchen counter. Use microwave to thaw or put the frozen fare under the running water. Immediately cook the food item after that.
  • Do not allow food to marinate in room temperature either. Use refrigerator instead.
  • When eating outside avoid raw food items like—salads, yoghurt dips and milkshakes.
  • Peel the outer layer of cabbages, lettuce or spring onions while cooking. The outer most surfaces are contaminated with pesticides and food-borne bugs.
  •  Say no to beverages laced with ice, if you are not sure about the purity of the ice.

With these tips you can avoid nasty food-borne bugs and the resulting painful gastro disorders this summer.

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