Since it is World Health Day, may I just clear my throat and give a speech? I’ve noticed lately that while my “plant” friends are passionate about health and making food choices that lead towards health they may be a touch complacent about other choices that could have an even more immediate impact on their health.
So please allow me a just a moment on my food safety soapbox. As a Registered Dietitian I have been involved in developing food safety protocols for hospital food service departments. Food there must be safe for the most vulnerable of populations, the very young, the very old, the sick, and the immune compromised. I have done food safety inspections in the community to keep you safe. I also live with a Microbiologist who owns a laboratory where food safety testing is performed each day. So you could see me as a bit obsessed or as a source for information to keep you and the people you love safe – you decide. I could go on and on…but I picked three key messages for today.
1. Your mother told you a gazillion times – WASH YOUR HANDS! Just do it – before touching food, between handling different foods, after using the bathroom, after touching your hair or face or someone else’s hair or face, after handling a pet, after leaving your food preparation area, and at any other time when you wonder if you should. Just do it! Wash with soap and hot water (110 degrees F) for at least 20 seconds. One…one thousand…two….one thousand…three…one thousand…four….
2. SHOP SAFE – STORE SAFE! Some of you live in households that are not 100% plant – powered zones. If you have animal products in your kitchen you need to have some extra safety measures in place. When shopping, place animal products (eggs, milk, fish, poultry, etc.) in a plastic bag, place them in the lowest part of your shopping cart and take them home in a seperate shopping bag. If you use reuseable bags, designate one bag for animal products and use that same bag for such foods on every shopping trip. Wash your dispoable bags in hot water at least monthly. Once home, place those animal foods in their plastic bag on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator. Do NOT take any chance of having these foods drip on other foods that you will eat raw!
Date foods – keep a sharpy handy – write a date on things you buy or leftoevers you stash. Leftovers should be eaten within 4 days. If you have more than you will be able to use within that time frame, package and freeze immediately (don’t wait till day 4 to do so.)
3. KEEP SURFACES SAFE. Develop a regular cleaning schedule for your refrigerator, your counters, and all food storage shelves. Be particularly conscientous about your sink. It seems so clean, afterall, it is the cleaning center of the home, but that is exactly what makes it so risky – it washes away a lot of stuff and not all of it goes down the drain. Be sure to scrub and sanitize your sink OFTEN, particularly if it has had contact with any animal based foods.
Don’t put dishes, bowls, pots or pans away wet. Nested containers with moisture between them make a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Allow dishes to air dry upside down and store once thoroughly dried.
You can make an inexpensive effective sanitizer by mixing 1 1/3 t bleach with 1 qt water. More is not better, this is the maximum concentration considered safe for food surfaces. It should remain on the surfaces for 2-5 minutes for a thorough kill. That means, you must resist the urge to spray and wipe and dry and polish and shine. Let it sit and do its work. When you are in a restaurant and see the table clearer spray down a table and immediately wipe it, remember not to eat off the table there! Killing germs takes time.
Choose good food, keep it safe, enjoy life!