Temperatures are rising and the unreliability of the electricity supply isn’t helping, as refrigerators stay off for a good part of the day due to power outages. All this combines to create the perfect environment that allows germs and bacteria to breed, resulting in food poisoning and other stomach disorders.It therefore becomes extremely important to maintain some basic rules for health and hygiene when it comes to our food and drink. Saurabh Arora, founder of Indian food safety web portal FoodSafetyHelpline, shares his tips on food safety and hygiene:
The golden rule
Wash your hands before cooking and after handling raw meat, fish and poultry. Dry your hands with a clean towel. Make a habit of wearing an apron in the kitchen. Avoid cooking and touching food items if you have a cold, runny nose or fever. Before handling food, make sure that all cooking surfaces are spotlessly clean. Wash all utensils with soap and water. Preferably use a separate chopping board for meat.
Wash raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly
With the growing concern about pesticide residues remaining on the surface of fruits and vegetables, it is a good idea to soak them in lukewarm water with some salt and vinegar for two hours. Before eating (fruits) or cooking (vegetables), wash them under running tap water to get rid of any last traces of pesticides.
Maintain correct refrigerator temperature
This is the most relevant tip for maintaining food safety during the hot summer months. The temperature of the refrigerator must be maintained at four degree Celsius and the freezer at -15 to -18 degree Celsius. Store away raw meat and poultry in the freezer compartment. When required, thaw out frozen items in the refrigerator compartment, but keep them separate from other items of food. Make sure to thaw meat thoroughly. When you marinate meat in the fridge, make sure you use the sauce only for cooking, and not for serving. Never serve cooked meat on the same plate that you used for marinating. Once served, food should not be kept outside for more than two hours. If eating outdoors, use a chiller box with plenty of ice packs. Use separate boxes for food and beverages. Avoid opening the box too often to maintain the cool temperature inside. Also, avoid exposure of the chiller box to direct sunlight.
Practice safety tips for outdoor picnics
Food safety begins with proper hand cleaning — even more so when outdoor settings are involved. Before you begin setting out your picnic feast, make sure your hands and all surfaces that you plan to use are clean. If you don’t have access to running water, simply use a water jug, soap, and paper towels, or consider using disposable wet wipes for cleaning your hands.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th, 2015.