We all know someone that had a bad “stomach bug” or diarrhoea episode due to a bad meal. Unfortunately, we sometimes also hear about severe food poisoning outbreaks that affect the health of many, sometimes even leading to fatality.
Most known food poisoning cases happen after eating out, but eating at home can also pose some risks. Uncooked fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as certain animal products, are most likely to contain harmful bacteria. The risk of food poisoning also depends on the origin of the food, as well as processing, storing and preparation methods. Some examples of animal products include unpasteurised milk; raw/undercooked eggs; raw meat; raw poultry; raw fish; raw shellfish; luncheon meats and deli meats.
Although everyone should practice safe food handling practices, pregnant mothers and people with compromised immune systems should take extra care.
Important to prevent COVID-19 transmission and also an important rule in food preparation.
- Wash hands under running water with soap frequently for at least twenty seconds, and use hot tap water when possible. Follow the 5 steps for handwashing. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitisers.
- You should wash or sanitise hands:
- After using the restroom.
- Before eating.
- Before and after each step of food preparation.
- After handling garbage.
- After touching pets, their food or waste.
- After sweeping the floor or doing any other housework.
- Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhoea
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
Selecting foods carefully at the grocery store
Selecting the right foods at the time of purchase is crucial to prevent foodborne illness.
The key rule is to avoid damaged packages as they might be contaminated by microorganisms. Also avoid foods that may have any mould, as this contains toxins that cause health issues. If you notice that the food has been displayed in unsafe or unclean conditions, don’t buy it.
- Buy your food from established and reliable retail establishments.
- Only select food that is within its expiry date.
- Do not buy chilled or frozen food that is displayed at room temperature. Select frozen food that has been stored below the load line of the freezing unit to avoid temperature abuse.
- Select canned food that is in perfect condition and has not been dented or is bloated.
- Avoid food packaging that is torn, leaking, infested with insects or has mould.
- Check that bottled milk or drinks are tightly sealed.
- Buy eggs that are clean and without cracks. When storing food at home, be aware of the time that the food can be kept in the refrigerator and freezer. You can refer to the cold storage chart (at the end of the article) for your reference.
Food safety when food prepping
- Thaw frozen meat and poultry in the refrigerator, microwave, or cold water. Do not leave it out on the kitchen counter. Be mindful of expiration dates of food products. If in doubt, throw it out.
- Ensure that cutting boards, countertops, and utensils are thoroughly cleaned.
- Wash (in hot water), change and discard sponges and dish towels often.
Separate and avoid cross-contamination.
- Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs away from ready-to-eat foods.
- Use a different cutting board for raw meat, poultry, and fish.
Food safety when cooking
Ideally, you should use a food thermometer to ensure that foods are thoroughly and safely cooked at proper temperatures. Cook foods to the following internal temperatures:
- Steaks and roasts—63ºC.
- Ground beef—72ºC.
- Egg dishes—72ºC.
- Chicken breast—74ºC.
- Whole poultry—74ºC.
- Reheat hotdogs until steaming hot or 74ºC.
Food safety after cooking
- Refrigerate or freeze leftover foods once they are cooled to limit the growth of bacteria.
- Set the refrigerator between 1ºC and 4ºC.
- Keep the freezer set to -18ºC or below.
Article by Claudia Correia, Lead Dietitian, MyDoc Healthcare Team
References and more information
CDC. 2020. When and How to Wash Your Hands. CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [Online] April 2, 2020. [Cited: June 02, 2020.] https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html.
Singapore Food Agency. 2020. Food Safety Education. Singapore Food Agency. [Online] April 16, 2020. [Cited: June 2, 2020.] https://www.sfa.gov.sg/food-information/food-safety-education/good-food-safety-practices.