Written by Belinda Russo (Accredited Practising Dietitian and Exercise Physiologist)
from Tiny Tummies Nutrition
With all the media hype around the latest ‘superfoods’, celebrity diet secrets and the ‘best’ time of day to eat carbs (there is no solid scientific evidence that there is a ‘best’ time of day to eat carbs by the way), it is all too easy to forget that it’s not just what we eat that matters, but also HOW we eat. In particular, how we prepare and store our foods.
Picture this, you have just lovingly prepared a super nutritious meal worthy of the Masterchef 2017 title, except that you forgot to wash your hands before you started preparing the vegetables- after having meticulously spice-rubbed the chicken. Your super nutritious, Masterchef worthy meal is now a breeding ground for millions of (not-so-gut-friendly) bacteria which will later have yourself and your family running back and forth to the toilet rather than running back to the kitchen for seconds- not such a pretty picture after all!
Every year in Australia, there is an estimated 4.1 million cases of food poisoning, resulting in 21, 920 hospitalisations, 86 deaths and 1 million visits to the doctor! This says to me that we all have a lot to learn about food safety and need to be a lot more mindful about how we are preparing and storing our foods. Particularly if yourself or someone you are preparing foods for is elderly, pregnant, an infant or young child or has an illness which affects their immune system – these individuals have a higher risk of suffering severe symptoms, or in some cases, death, as a result of food poisoning. To significantly reduce your risk of food poisoning, follow these basic food safety rules:
Follow the 20/20 rule when washing your hands- wash hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds then dry hands for 20 seconds before starting your food prep.
- # Repeat frequently during food preparation and cooking, especially after handling raw meats or vegetables with visible soil.
School/work lunch tip: When preparing food, always remember the 20/20 handwashing rule. Lunchboxes and reusable drink bottles must be thoroughly washed and dried daily (if cracked, split or crazed, replace as bugs love hidey holes). Wash all fruit and veg thoroughly.
As soon as possible after purchase meat, poultry, dairy foods, vegetables, salad ingredients should be refrigerated at or below 5ºC. A fridge thermometer should be used to make sure the temperature is at or below 5ºC.
- # Refrigerate leftovers promptly – cooked food should be stored in covered containers and either put in the fridge to cool, or frozen immediately.
- # Frozen foods should be defrosted in the fridge NOT on the kitchen bench.
School/work lunch tip: Lunches can safely be prepared a little ahead of time provided they are kept in the fridge or frozen. To keep school lunches cold throughout the day, pack a frozen milk popper/yoghurt tube, water bottle or commercial ice pack with the lunch. Place perishable foods such as cheeses and sandwiches between the frozen items. Divide cooked leftovers into small lunch-sized portions so they refrigerate or freeze quickly.
The Australian Food Safety and Information council’s mantra is IF IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT! I agree with this to an extent- if it doesn’t smell or look right absolutely, get rid of it. But with the ridiculous amount of food wastage already happening in Australia, maybe we could try planning our meals for the week, buying only what we need for the week in terms of fresh produce, prepare and store our foods safely and correctly and then it’s a win-win situation- reduced food wastage, less cases of food poisoning, more people cooking nutritious meals from home, a healthier Australia- ok, well, it’s not that simple, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction!
- # Chicken, minced or boned meats, hamburger, stuffed meats and sausages should be cooked through until they reach 75 degrees celcius using a meat thermometer (I can hear the rare-steak lovers screeching at me now – I’m just giving you the facts though, enjoy that rare cooked meat, but enjoy at your own peril!).
- # Serve hot food steaming hot above 600C.
- # Defrost frozen poultry and rolled and stuffed meats thoroughly before cooking
School/work lunch tip: Make sure lunch foods are cooked properly in the first place and when reheating, make sure they are steaming hot all the way through – stir or turn food as appropriate. Choose low risk foods such as hard cheeses, freshly cooked meats and poultry, fresh, well-washed fruits and vegetables, canned tuna or salmon, shelf stable snacks and sandwich spreads.
- # Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw and cooked foods separate when storing and preparing
- # Food should be stored in covered containers in the fridge and put raw meats and poultry in the bottom of the fridge so the juices don’t contaminate food on lower shelves.
- # Don’t put cooked meat back on the plate the raw meat was on.
School/work lunch tip: Make sure lunchbox foods have been well separated from other foods in the refrigerator, particularly meats, chicken and fish (the juice from these foods will contaminate foods which won’t be cooked before adding to the lunchbox, such as fruits).
November 6th – 12th and the 20th is the Australian Food Safety Week – visit
1. www.foodsafety.asn.au Accessed online 24/10/16
for more information about food safety in at home and work, or visit
2. www.foodstandards.gov.au Accessed online 24/10/16
for information regarding commercial food safety regulations and food labelling standards in Australia. If you do get food poisoning please seek the advice of your GP.
Want to know more about planning and preparing nutritious meals for yourself and your family? Book an appointment today with our Accredited Practising Dietitian for expert tailored nutrition advice at www.tinytummiesnutrition.com
– www.foodsafety.asn.au Accessed online 24/10/16