The Importance of Food Safety
Food safety is critical to our health. It's easier than we think for food to become contaminated, whether it's through reheating or simply not having access to the necessary expertise and equipment.
It's a problem that's often overlooked around the world. Each year, an estimated 600 million people become ill as a result of tainted food, according to the World Health Organization. Food contaminated with dangerous bacteria or parasites has the potential to cause more than 200 ailments. We'll go through how food poisoning occurs, how to recognize the symptoms, and how to avoid it in this article.
Did You Know?
- In Australia, the annual cost of food poisoning is estimated to be $1.25 billion. Food poisoning affects 5.4 million people per year, resulting in 120 deaths, 1.2 million doctor visits, 300,000 antibiotic prescriptions, and 2.1 million days lost at work.
- Every year, an estimated 600 million individuals – nearly one in every ten people on the planet – become unwell after eating tainted food, with 420,000 deaths, resulting in the loss of 33 million healthy life years (DALYs)
- Within the first year of a new Eat Safe Brisbane council effort, nearly $700,000 in fines were issued to eateries in Brisbane.
- Across Australia, several restaurants have been fined more than $200,000 for failing to keep food premises and equipment clean, failing to store food to prevent contamination, and a variety of other offenses.
- The consequences of not having a Food Safety Supervisor are determined at the state and territory level. Depending on the situation and where the firm is located, the penalties might range from $330 to $75,000.
Data from the World Health Organization's Food Safety information sheet, the Australian Government's Department of Health Foodborne Illness in Australia report, and the Australian Institute of Food Safety were used to compile these figures.
What Causes Cross-Contamination?
One of the most common causes of food poisoning is improper food handling. It's easy to put meals on surfaces that have previously been used to chop raw meat, or to mix together used and clean cutting boards. Color-coded chopping boards, knives, and utensils are one of the simplest and most successful ways for rapidly identifying which item to use for a specific cuisine.
The Food Act 2006, according to the Queensland Government, identifies common practices that result in cross contamination, such as:
- When both raw and ready-to-eat items are chopped with the same chopping board or knife
- When defrosting food and placing unclean utensils and equipment in the hand wash basin
- When keeping food in the fridge or freezer on the floor or uncovered
- Raw food should be stored/placed above ready-to-eat food.
- When wiping benches, silverware, utensils, and tables with the same cloth,
- When drying hands with a towel and utilizing drying equipment, plates, and utensils
How Do You Know If You've Been Poisoned by Food?
Symptoms of food poisoning can range from minor to severe. They can appear in as little as a few hours or as long as a few days, depending on what was consumed. Nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhoea, vomiting, fever, and headaches are some of the symptoms to watch for.
What advice would you give?
If your employee is experiencing diarrhoea or vomiting, they should be told to stay at home, rest, and drink plenty of water. Because the length of food poisoning varies, proceed with caution when they are ready to return to work. To limit danger, they should not prepare meals for at least two days after the symptoms have passed.
You should encourage them to see a doctor if their symptoms last more than three days or are particularly severe, or if they are unable to keep fluids down for more than a day. If they have symptoms such as blood or mucus in their vomit or diarrhoea, they should seek medical treatment.
Disclaimer: This information should only be used as a guide, and users should seek medical advice if they require it.
How can food poisoning be avoided in the first place?
Reheating food poses one of the greatest dangers. To store food safely, make sure it's completely cool before putting it in the fridge, so it doesn't overheat the fridge and cause bacteria to spread. For soups and stews, use closed containers or sealed bags while storage. To avoid cross-contamination, keep items separate and consume refrigerated foods within two days - or within 24 hours of defrosting them from the freezer.
Don't freeze leftovers, and make sure they're reheated for at least two minutes at 70°C. Rice requires extra caution when reheating because it is more heat resistant, so make sure it is piping hot before serving.
TIP: To avoid food poisoning, serve rice right away after it's been cooked. Uncooked rice can contain Bacillus cereus spores, according to the NHS UK. These spores can develop into bacteria and multiply at room temperature, perhaps releasing toxins that induce vomiting or diarrhoea.
How to Avoid Food Poisoning and Cross-Contamination
- Hands should be washed thoroughly, surfaces should be sanitized, and appliances should be kept clean. Throw out any refrigerated items that are no longer edible at least once a week.
- Rinse produce properly to avoid spreading bacteria to your food.
- When purchasing, preparing, and serving your goods, keep them separate. Never put cooked food on a chopping board that was previously used for raw meat.
- Cook to an internal temperature of 160°F (71.1°C) for all uncooked ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal. Cook all poultry to an internal temperature of 165°F (73.8°C), including ground turkey and chicken. Keep cold foods below 40°F (4.4°C) and hot meals above 140°F (60°C) or higher when keeping. Foods that have been in the danger zone between 40 and 140°F for more than two hours are no longer safe to eat.
TIP: According to the Food Safety Information Council, washing raw poultry before cooking might spread pathogens throughout your kitchen.
What tools can I use to prevent cross-contamination?
- Colour Coded Chopping Boards - The sets come with six different colored boards for baking and dairy products (white), salad and fruit (green), raw meat (red), cooked meat (yellow), veggies (brown), and raw fish (raw) (blue). Scrapers can be used to remove nicks and scratches from the boards, while brushes can be used to scrub them clean. Between usage, store your sets in a rack to keep them safe and clean.
- Colour Coded Chef Knives - To further decrease the possibility of cross contamination, pair your chopping boards with color-coded knives. Make sure your blades are only used with one type of food.
- Thermometers - Temperature readings may be taken quickly and accurately with food thermometers. Cooked foods, liquids, and semi-solids can all be tested using a digital probe thermometer. There are even models that are color-coded for usage with meat that are red or yellow. While probe thermometers are simple to clean, an infrared laser thermometer does not require any food contact.
- Disposable Gloves - Food handling has typically been done with blue disposable gloves since they are immediately visible in production lines. These powdered or powder-free gloves will safeguard both your hands and your ingredients.
- Soap and Hand Towel Dispensers - Staff and visitors will be more likely to wash their hands completely if sanitizer or hand soap stations are strategically located. Wall-mounted dispensers for paper hand towels are the most hygienic solution because hands only come into contact with one sheet at a time.
- Food Safety Signs - Stick a range of adhesive signs on your walls to reinforce the critical message of food safety. Place them near sinks or meal prep areas to remind employees on a frequent basis. Color-coded directions and hand-washing instructions are examples of food hygiene signage.