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The Four C’s of Food Safety

In the fight against bacteria in the food preparation area, there are 4 Steps to Food Safety that should be followed. By adhering to these guidelines and following the advice you will ensure that the food hygiene in your business or home will be kept at a maximum.

The 4 C’s are:

Clean
Cook
Combat Cross Contamination (also known as Separation)
Chill

Bacteria can exist in all food that we buy and this bacteria may be harmful to our health, carrying food-borne disease. After making it’s journey from the farm maybe to the processing plant and then to the market or store, you take possession of the food and it is then your responsibility to fight bacteria.

The 4 C’s are the tools you use to ensure your food is healthy.

Clean

Before preparing food you must always clean your hands thoroughly, which should go without saying but is surprisingly often overlooked. Providing hand-washing soap and towels at every sink in your business and home will make this an easy task to perform that will soon become a habit. Not only should you wash your hands before food handling but you should also wash your hands after preparing food.

Rinse fruit and vegetables before preparing to cook them to remove surface dirt as well as any pesticides and herbicides that may have been used while growing. Also, remove bruised or damaged parts of the produce because it’s in these areas that bacteria can thrive.

Ensure food preparation surfaces are clean before using them and then clean them immediately after cooking. Paper towels are the best option for cleaning kitchen surfaces because you can throw the germs away with the towel. If you do use cloth towels to clean up make sure you use a separate towel to dry your hands to the towel you use to clean up food stains such as raw meat, poultry or seafood juices. Wash cutting boards, utensils and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing each meal and before going on to the next food item.

When cutting boards become worn they should be replaced because bacteria can grow in the grooves and cracks that are scored into surfaces.

Spills in the refrigerator should be wiped up immediately and use by dates of perishable food should be checked each week and old food thrown away.

Cook

Cooking serves a purpose other than to make the food more palatable for consumption - it kills the harmful bacteria that may be living in the food. Food must be cooked so that it is heated for a long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria. The temperature required to cook different foods changes from food to food.

Following these food safety precautions will ensure you properly cook your food.

It’s not enough to simply go by the color of the food you’re cooking to gauge whether it is cooked properly. The surest way to determine that meats, casseroles and poultry are properly cooked all the way through is to use a clean food thermometer.

When cooking roasts and steaks the internal temperature of the food should reach at least 145° F (63° C). Poultry should reach a minimum internal temperature of 165° F (74° C).

Cook seafood until it is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.

Cook eggs until the yolks and whites are firm.

Reheat leftovers to a temperature of 165° F (74° C). When reheating sauces, make sure you bring them to the boil.

Combat Cross Contamination

Allowing different food types to come into contact with one another can set the stage for cross-contamination. Improper handling of raw meat, poultry and seafood can result in bacteria being spread to food throughout the kitchen.

The following rules should be followed to avoid cross-contamination:

When storing food such as raw meat, poultry and seafood either in the grocery store shopping cart or in the kitchen always make sure it is separated.

Use separate cutting boards for each food type, one for raw meat and another for fresh produce.

Always wash hands, cutting boards and utensils after they come in contact with food.

Always ensure food is placed on a clean plate. If food is placed on an unwashed plate that previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood bacteria from the raw food can contaminate the cooked food.

Make sure that raw food is stored in sealed containers to prevent juices from dripping on to other foods.

Don’t use sauces that were used to marinate raw meat on cooked foods unless it is boiled first. Similarly, don’t taste marinade that was used on raw meat, poultry or seafood.

Chill

Storage of perishable food should be done in the refrigerator to stop harmful bacteria from breeding. Bacteria grows at certain temperatures and cold temperatures stops them from multiplying.

Refrigerate food immediately after cooking if not eating it straight away. Putting hot food into the refrigerator will not harm the refrigerator and will keep your food safer than letting it cool on the kitchen bench.

The thermostat on the refrigerator should be set no higher than 40° F (4° C) and the freezer should be set at 0° F (-18° C).

Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within 2 hours.

Divide and store leftovers in shallow containers so that they cool quickly in the refrigerator.

An over-packed refrigerator reduces the flow of cold air so try not to cram too much in at any one time.

When going on picnics or barbecues, use a cooler with ice packs or ice to keep perishable foods cold. Also, if the cooler is filled it will remain colder for longer than a partially filled cooler.

When thawing food, never do so at room temperature. It’s best to thaw food in the refrigerator. An alternative to the refrigerator is to thaw food by immersing it in cold water. The water should be changed every half hour to ensure it is kept cold.

It is possible to thaw food in the microwave but if you do you should cook the food immediately after it’s thawed.

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