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Handling food safely

Handling food safely in the kitchen is important to avoid food poisoning.

The risks include cross contamination between raw and cooked foods, germs from hands and undercooking thatfails to kill disease-causing bacteria, viruses or parasites.

Wash your hands and clean worktops and other surfaces frequently.

Bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto chopping boards, utensils, sponges and worktops.

  • Wash your hands with hot soapy water and dry them thoroughly before handling food and after going to the toilet, changing nappies and touching pets. Avoid preparing foods if you have diarrhoea.
  • Wash your chopping boards, dishes, utensils, and worktops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next food.
  • Use plastic or other nonporous chopping boards. These boards should be run through the dishwasher - or washed in hot soapy water - after each use.
  • Consider using paper kitchen roll to clean up kitchen surfaces. If you use cloth towels, wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine. Use different cloths for different jobs. Wash tea towels regularly. If you touch a tea towel after handling raw meat, bacteria from the towel can spread to a plate if you use the towel for drying up.

Separate and don't cross-contaminate

This is especially true when handling raw meat, poultry, raw eggs, and seafood, so keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.

  • Separate raw meat, poultry, and seafood from other foods in your shopping trolley.
  • Keep raw meat and raw fish covered on the lower shelves of your fridge.
  • Use a different chopping board for raw meat products.
  • Always wash your hands, chopping boards, dishes and utensils with hot soapy water after they come in contact with raw meat, poultry, or seafood.
  • Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood.

Cook food to correct temperatures to kill the harmful bacteria.

  • Follow the advice from the Food Standards Agency which recommends cooking food, particularly meat, very thoroughly, so that it is ‘piping hot’ in the middle. If you own a thermometer that measures the internal temperature of cooked food, check in the middle or the thickest part. Look for a temperature reading of 70˚C over a period of more than two minutes.
  • Cook roasts and steaks to at least 60C (145F). Whole poultry should be cooked to at least 80C (180F). Because bacteria can spread throughout mincemeat (beefburgers) during processing, always cook it to at least 70C (160F).
  • If a thermometer is not available, do not eat mincemeat that is still pink inside.
  • Fish should be opaque and flake easily with a fork.
  • When cooking in a microwave oven, make sure there are no cold spots in food where bacteria can survive. For best results, cover food, stir, and rotate for even cooking. If there is no turntable, rotate the dish by hand once or twice during cooking.
  • Bring sauces, soups and gravy to a rolling boil when reheating. Heat other leftovers thoroughly to about 70C (165F).

In autumn 2017 the Food Standards Agency changed guidance on eggs so that even vulnerable groups can safely eat raw or lightly cooked UK produced eggs without needing to hard-boil them, so long as they bear the British Lion mark.

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