Proper food sanitation is important in helping to prevent food-borne illnesses in a food establishment as well as in the home. Using proper procedures when cooking, cleaning, storing, and handling food will help to ensure that the food you eat or serve is safe. Proper washing and sanitizing of equipment, utensils, and surfaces will also help to prevent cross-contamination between foods. In food service establishments, non-scented household bleach is commonly used as a sanitizing agent. When mixed with water to the appropriate concentration, this provides a safe and effective sanitizing solution.
When storing cold foods, keeping these foods below 41 degrees Fahrenheit will help to prevent harmful bacteria from growing. When cooking foods, cooking the food to the recommended temperature will also help to ensure its safety. When holding hot foods to be served, keeping the foods above 135 degrees Fahrenheit will help to prevent harmful bacterial growth.
Proper cooling of hot foods is another way to help prevent bacterial growth in foods. Hot foods should be cooled from 135 degrees to 70 degrees within 2 hours, and from 70 degrees to 41 degrees or below within 4 more hours for a total cooling time of no more than 6 hours. Examples of methods to cool foods: divide large amounts of food into smaller portions before cooling, cut solid foods into smaller pieces before cooling, place foods in shallow pans and leave uncovered in refrigerator until cooled, or placing containers in an ice-water bath and stirring frequently until cooled.
Following proper personal hygiene procedures also helps to prevent contamination of food, equipment, utensils, and surfaces. Proper hand-washing etiquette such as washing your hands after: using the restroom, eating, handling raw foods, smoking, handling unclean equipment, taking out the trash, or touching unclean surfaces helps to prevent cross-contamination and spreading germs. Other personal hygiene rules to follow when preparing and cooking food are to keep fingernails trimmed, keep hair restrained, keep cuts and open wounds bandaged, remove jewelry, and refrain from tobacco use.
Other tips to help keep your food safe:
- Keep raw meat & poultry separate from ready-to-eat foods
- Clean cutting boards, utensils, & equipment before and after contact with raw meats and eggs
- Use a food thermometer when cooking
- Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or as part of the cooking process
- Store raw meats and eggs below ready-to-eat foods in your refrigerator to prevent the juices from dripping down and contaminating the food
- Use the first in, first out method of storage (i.e. use old food before using new food)
- Label stored foods with date prepared or stored