Food Safety : Enhancing Food Quality via Proper Handling and Storage

Food safety is always of utmost importance when serving food and beverages. We tend to focus on the nutritional values and benefits of the food we eat, to avoid developing food-related disorders like hypertension and diabetes. Yet in doing so, we must also keep in mind that human health can also be affected by foodborne, disease-causing microorganisms. Once contaminated food is ingested, they can result to illnesses in a matter of hours.

Meals and beverages when not handled and/or stored properly, can easily become sources of food diseases. Be aware that once a type of disease-causing bacteria has entered human or animal intestines, the microorganism is still capable of multiplying.

This denotes therefore that even if a person partakes of food that has been contaminated with only a small number of harmful bacteria, a person can still suffer from diarrhea, vomiting, or at worst, from food poisoning.

The U.S. FDA statistics account that about 48 million incidences of foodborne illness occur annually. The number equates to a ratio of one (1) out of every six (6) Americans experience illnesses caused by virulent microorganisms carried by food. .

Key Points to Remember About Proper Food Handling

Improper food handling has repeatedly been pinpointed as a critical cause of food contamination. Poor food handling practices can occur not only in eateries, dining outlets or even in homes. Bacterial contamination may happen from the moment animals are slaughtered or fished out of the water; or when fresh fruits and vegetables are picked and readied for transport.

That is why washing before cooking, storing or eating every food item handled or served is important. That goes without saying that hand washing before handling food is also necessary.

Keeping food preparations covered prevents flies and/or other insects, and even pets from contaminating food with toxic germs and poisonous bacteria.

As much as possible, people with poor hygiene, with unsanitary habits, or suffering from seemingly harmless skin disorders, sores, colds, cough, or any type of infection, should not be assigned to take part in the handling and cooking of food. Unsanitary actions, such as scratching, touching, coughing or sneezing can transmit unseen microorganisms to the food being handled or prepared.

Proper Food Storage Prevents Bacterial Growth

Although cooking or processing food can kill most of the disease-causing bacteria present in foods, some surviving or newly added spores may germinate and cause contamination. Bacteria, whether good or bad, multiply at a fast rate. They can double in numbers in a span of every 20 minutes, especially during warm temperatures of 37°C-38°C.

Refrigeration therefore is the best method of storing food, since microbes are immobilized under very cold temperatures.

It is always best to cook thawed frozen foods immediately to prevent any bacteria from activating.

If refrigeration is not possible, adding lots of salt, or diluting perishable foods in acid (vinegar) before storing them in an airtight container can kill microbes.

Leftover food preparations that have been exposed to warm temperatures for more than two (2) hours at the least, must be discarded; one hour even if the moisture level of the food is high.

When dishes are set on buffet tables, placing them on food warmers, slow cookers or chaffing dishes, is the best way of preventing microorganisms from spoiling the food.