India is home to thousands of different religions, languages, and even weathers. Where in the north, temperatures can go down to several degrees below zero, in the west, temperatures can go half a century of degrees above zero too. Our nation is a great mélange of irregularities. Since season changes really quickly here, it ends up takes a toll on a lot of things – most essentially on our health and food. The chances of food poisoning increase exponentially during season changes.
Each year, there are an estimated 41 lakh cases of food poisoning in India. But these can be can reduced to zilch if we take a bit of extra care before we consume our meal, or even before we start cooking.
These few simple actions can cut the likelihood of food poisoning drastically:
We are the conquerors of our own health, but obviously we need to maintain ample cleanliness for it and we are through.
Our health is in our hands! If our hands are clean, the chances of food poisoning and other diseases decrease dramatically. We have a 20/20 rule for this: First you should wash hands for 20 seconds and then you let them dry for another 20 seconds before you start cooking. This is especially important when you handle raw meats or vegetables that are visibly dirty. Handle different sorts of foods differently and place them on thoroughly washed and dried utensils and cutting boards. Washing dishcloths and hand towels frequently and letting them dry before further usage is also extremely vital because clothes are the home to breeding germs. Lastly, separate chopping boards for raw and ready-to-eat food is essential since raw foods contain contagious bacteria that spread easily to everything in the proximity as soon as they come in contact with them.
When the food is meant to be chilled, you should not refrain from doing it because the instructions are there for a reason. And by “chilled,” we mean keep all your purchased poultry, salads, veggies, dairy products, etc., in the refrigerator turned down below 5 degrees. Do not leave the food in the cars after purchasing even if it’s “just five minutes.” Use a thermometer to check whether the refrigerator’s temperature is actually 5 degrees or lower. Also, since the winter is setting in now, change the temperature accordingly. It also depends on the amount of food stored. Leftovers should be put in the fridge if you don’t plan to throw them. Cooked food should be kept in the fridge after being covered. And it is completely wrong to defrost the frozen foods outside of the fridge. Remember: Throw it out, if in doubt!
Covering raw meat and keeping it on the bottom shelf of the fridge is a great idea since it can not touch other foods that way.
Reduce the chances of food poisoning considerably by cooking the food properly. And by “properly,” we don’t question the way you cook, we merely ask you to keep cooking your stuffed meats, sausages, hamburgers, chicken, minced or boned meats till the temperature reaches 75 degrees on the thermometer. You just have to be sure that kebabs, pork, burgers, et al, are cooked until there is no pink meat left inside. One very important tip is to NOT wash raw meat (including chicken) before cooking, unless you wish to spread bacteria in your kitchen. Also, freezing the chicken doesn’t kill the entire bacteria either. The only sure-shot way to kill all traces of bacteria from chicken is to cook it thoroughly.
Serving the food at a particular temperature is just as important as cooking it properly. Serve it steaming hot at above 60 degrees. Before you cook your frozen poultry, always defrost it. And make sure you follow cooking instructions for packaged foods.
Something that you have cooked and are not able to consume it? Don’t worry, just cool it as quickly as possible and refrigerate it. And make sure you consume all the refrigerated leftovers within a couple of days.
It’s funny that this is one of the most important tasks of ours and we blatantly take this for granted. Food borne diseases are spread the fastest through cross contaminating food. That is precisely why one should always separate cooked and raw foods while storing or preparing. Always cover the food when refrigerating and it’s a great idea to place the raw meats and poultry on the bottom shelf in order to prevent their juices from contaminating other food items. And keeping the raw meat away from ready-to-eat food like fruit, salad and bread, is absolutely mandatory since the latter won’t be cooked before serving hence the bacteria won’t be killed at all.
Respect ‘use by’ dates
There is a very strong reason why there are expiry dates or ‘use by’ dates written on purchased foods. Do not consume it if past the date even if it “smells fine.” These are the dates after which the germination of bugs will begin on these foods. So, avoid at all costs.
We, the Indians, find it extremely difficult to resist eating more than our capacities when the food is tasty. Hence, we are the most vulnerable to food-related diseases. Being extra careful by following the plan of action mentioned above will help us all go a long way without encountering food poisoning, and so will also help us enjoy our food better!
Feature Image Source: Google