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A safe pair of hands

June 9, 2010

As the world cup rapidly approaches, it’s more important than ever that we’re fit and healthy so we don’t miss a minute of the action! (just me?)

Perhaps that’s why the Food Standards Agency run Food Safety Week this week (7-13 June)?

Reducing our food waste is not about taking risks. In fact, a thorough understanding of food safety can help us to get the very most out of our food.

This year, Food Safety Week is focusing on simple steps that can be taken at home to reduce the risk of food poisoning. The message is relatively simple – if you cook meat and poultry properly all the way through and take steps to avoid contaminating other food, you can avoid illness.

As food lovers who hate waste, we are careful and considerate in our preparation of food, as proper portioning ensures we don’t prepare too much and create waste. We must be equally as aware of the handling necessary to ensure food bugs do not have a chance of being spread and causing harm.

When preparing food, keep raw meat separate from ready-to-eat food: store raw meat and poultry in sealed containers at the bottom of the fridge, to avoid dripping onto other food. And never use the same chopping board for raw meat and read-to-eat food without washing the board (and knife) in between.

Don’t wash meat before cooking it. Washing doesn’t get rid of harmful germs – only proper cooking will. You only run the risk of splashing germs onto worktops and utensils.

A keen food waste reducer’s best tool is their freezer. The freezing process immobilises microbes, bacteria, yeasts and moulds present in food but does not kill any bacteria.

Proper cooking kills food poisoning bacteria. It’s important to make sure poultry, pork, burgers and sausages are cooked all the way through. To check that chicken or meat is cooked properly, when you cut into the deepest part there should be no pinkness left and any juices should run clear, with no red traces. Some meat, such as steaks and joints of beef or lamb, can be served rare as long as the outside has been properly cooked or ‘sealed’. It is important to seal meat to kill any bacteria that might be on the outside.

Finally, food labels can be very confusing with all their different terms but the important ones to look out for are ‘use by’ and ‘best before’.

Use by is the key date to look out for in terms of food safety. Use by dates appear on foods that go off quickly like dairy products or meat and fish. You shouldn’t eat food after the end of this date even if it looks and smells fine, as it may put your health at risk.

Best before dates relate to food quality rather than safety. It is safe to eat food after this date; however food may no longer be at its best in terms of taste and texture. The exception to this rule is eggs, which should never be eaten after their best before date.

By avoiding cross-contamination, cooking food thoroughly and understanding food labels, we can ensure that while we strive to reduce our food waste, we can prepare safe food and protect ourselves and our families from food poisoning.

Now that you know it all (and since there are no Scotland games to get excited about) try the food hygiene quiz on the Love Food Hate Waste website!

For further information on food safety or Food Safety Week, visit Food Standards Agency Scotland’s website.

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