How to preserve your food to prevent illnesses

March 6, 2012 – Where, When & how to preserve your food to prevent illnesses

Whether putting food in the refrigerator, the freezer, or the cupboard, There are many opportunities to prevent food-borne illnesses.

The goal is to keep safe from micro-organisms such as Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and C. botulinum. Keeping foods chilled at proper temperatures is one of the best ways to prevent or slow the growth of these bacteria.

Food Storage basics

Refrigerate or freeze perishables right away. Foods that require refrigeration should be put in the refrigerator as soon as possible.

Never allow meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, or produce or other foods that require refrigeration to sit at room temperature for more than two hours Also, when putting food away, don’t crowd the refrigerator or freezer so tightly that air can’t circulate.

Keep your appliances at the proper temperatures. Keep the refrigerator temperature at or below 40° F (4° C). The freezer temperature should be 0° F (-18° C).

Check storage directions on labels. Many items other than meats, vegetables, and dairy products need to be kept cold. For instance, mayonnaise and ketchup should go in the refrigerator after opening. If you’ve neglected to properly refrigerate something, it’s usually best to throw it out.

Use ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible. The longer they’re stored in the refrigerator, the more chance Listeria, a bacterium that causes foodborne illness, can grow, especially if the refrigerator temperature is above 40° F (4° C).

Be alert for spoiled food. Anything that looks or smells suspicious should be thrown out. Mold is a sign of spoilage. It can grow even under refrigeration. Mold is not a major health threat, but it can make food unappetizing. The safest practice is to discard food that is moldy.

Food Refrigeration Tips

Clean the refrigerator regularly and wipe spills immediately. This helps reduce the growth of Listeria bacteria and prevents drips from thawing meat that can allow bacteria from one food to spread to another. Clean the fridge out frequently.

Keep foods covered. Store refrigerated foods in covered containers or sealed storage bags, and check leftovers daily for spoilage. Store eggs in their carton in the refrigerator itself rather than on the door, where the temperature is warmer.

Check expiration dates. If food is past its “use by” date, discard it. If you’re not sure or if the food looks questionable, throw it out.

Freezer facts

Food that is properly frozen and cooked is safe. Food that is properly handled and stored in the freezer at 0° F (-18° C) will remain safe.

Freezing does not kill most bacteria, but does stop bacteria from growing. Though food will be safe indefinitely at 0° F, quality will decrease the longer the food is in the freezer. Tenderness, flavour, aroma, juiciness, and color can all be affected.

Leftovers should be stored in tight containers. With commercially frozen foods, it’s important to follow the cooking instructions on the package to assure safety.

Freezing does not reduce nutrients. There is little change in a food’s protein value during freezing.Refrigerator/freezer thermometers should be monitored.

If you lose electricity- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Your refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if it’s unopened. A full freezer will keep an adequate temperature for about 48 hours if the door remains closed.(By SOLA OGUNDIPE)