Cooking with food safety in mind
How we prepare and store our food is just as important. Inadequate cooking is the leading cause of food poisoning. Cross-contamination of raw foods to cooked can cause food poisoning. To kill all types of food poisoning bacteria, most foods should be thoroughly cooked, including meat, fish, eggs and poultry.
Food should be cooked at 75 degrees Celsius or higher. It is important to eat food immediately after it has been cooked. Keep it hotter than 60 degrees Celsius, cool it and cover it in the refrigerator or freezer.
Food poisoning is a serious threat to people.
Food poisoning is more dangerous to some people than to others. These are the most vulnerable groups:
- Pregnant women
- young children
- The elderly
- Anyone with a chronic condition.
These groups require special care when cooking, serving, and storing their food.
High-risk foods can be cooked safely.
Food poisoning bacteria grow more readily on certain foods than on others. High-risk foods include:
- Raw and cooked meats, like chicken and minced meats, as well as foods containing them such as lasagnas, curries, and casseroles
- dairy products, such as custards and dairy-based desserts like cheesecakes and tarts
- Eggs and egg products, such as mousse
- Smallgoods, such as salami and ham
- Seafood – including seafood patties, seafood salads, fish balls and stews containing fish stock
- Pasta and cooked rice
- Prepared salads: such as coleslaws or pasta salads or rice salads
- Prepared fruit salads
- Ready-to-eat food – sandwiches, rolls and pizzas that include the above.
High-risk foods and the temperature danger zone
High-risk foods should be avoided. Remember to:
- High-risk foods should be kept out of the temperature danger zone between 5 and 60 degrees Celsius
- High-risk foods should not be left in the temperature danger area for more than 2 hours.
- High-risk foods should not be left in the temperature danger area for more than 2 hours but less than 4 hours.
- You should throw out high-risk food that has been in the temperature danger zone longer than four hours.
All food should be cooked to 75 degrees Celsius.
It is important to know how to cook food. Different foods require a different cooking method.
- When cooking food, aim for an internal temperature of 75 degrees Celsius or higher. Heating foods can kill most food poisoning bacteria to this temperature. To check the temperature of food during cooking, use a thermometer.
- You can cook mince, sausages, or whole chickens right to the center. The juices and pink meat should not be visible.
- As food poisoning bacteria are mostly at the surface, cook steaks, chops, and whole cuts of red beef to your liking.
- Use a fork to flake fish easily.
- Make sure to cook eggs-based foods like omelets or baked egg custards thoroughly.
Raw eggs are safe for your food.
With extra caution, prepare foods that contain raw eggs, such as homemade mayonnaise, sauces such as hollandaise, and desserts such as tiramisu or mousse. These foods can be contaminated by bacteria found on the eggshells or inside the egg, leading to food poisoning.
Avoid feeding raw eggs to pregnant women, children, seniors, and people with chronic illnesses.
Microwave cooking and food safety
Microwaves can be used to quickly and easily cook food. Microwaves can cause uneven cooking if not used properly. You may find that the microwave does not cook food evenly, or it doesn’t heat up to 75 degrees Celsius. You can cook food in the microwave.
- If possible, cut the food into equal-sized pieces.
- Use a microwave-safe cover or microwave plastic wrap to protect the food. This will help to trap steam and ensure even cooking.
- During cooking, rotate and stir the food.
- Wait until the standing time has ended before checking that the cooking is done. The microwave can continue to heat food even after it is turned off.
Cooling and storing food
You can store food in the refrigerator if you wait for the steam to stop rising. This will keep food from getting too hot. You can cook large portions of food faster if you place them on shallow trays or break them up into smaller portions.
Keep food warm by heating it to 60 degrees Celsius and keeping it out of danger zones.
Cooked food can be kept in the refrigerator for up to seven days if stored in good conditions. You can freeze cooked food right after it has cooled in the refrigerator.
Cooked food should be kept separate from raw foods, particularly raw meats, poultry, and fish. Raw meats and poultry should be kept at the bottom of your fridge to prevent raw juices from dripping onto other foods. All food should be covered or sealed.
To steam hot, heat food
Heat food to steam or boil at 75 degrees Celsius. Steam should be distributed throughout the food, not just at the edges. When heating food in the microwave oven, be careful. To ensure that food is heated to at least 75 degrees Celsius, follow the same steps as using a microwave oven.