Holiday seasons herald a busy but enjoyable experience for most people. Celebrations are planned and completed surrounding good food, good friends and family. The preparation and storage of food is a priority, but the excitement of holidays and the energy exerted on these matters often distracts our attention from normal daily hygiene. Review these tips written by a registered nurse, and have a healthy holiday.
Step One: The basic technique of hand washing. Hands collect all types of germs that can easily spread to the mouth, nose and eyes through touch. The spread of most infectious disease can be avoided or significantly reduced by the simple procedure of effective hand washing. Cleaning hands is not accomplished by a quick passing under a syncopating sprinkle of water, followed by a shake or pat dry across the fabric covering one’s rump. Effective hand washing requires a bar of ordinary soap [or liquid soap], water and a clean fabric or paper towel for drying. Rub hands with soap and water for approximately fifteen seconds, taking care to include backs of hands, wrists and between the fingers. If dirt or matter has collected under the fingernails, use a nailbrush. Rinse hands then thoroughly dry [cheap paper towel is ideal and quite acceptable to place in the bathroom for guests to use]. Do not wash hands in the kitchen sink and dry on the tea towel.
Always wash hands before preparing, serving or eating food. Wash hands after going to the toilet, changing babies’ diapers or pants, touching animals, touching ears, nose, mouth or hair, touching objects soiled by body fluids, after wiping nose, coughing or sneezing, handling rubbish or money, smoking, gardening, or handling raw food and eggs.
Step Two: Keep surfaces and storage areas for food clean. Hot soapy water [normal dishwashing detergent used for washing up] and a clean cloth for wiping down benches is adequate for keeping surfaces clean. Remember to clean out the refrigerator before loading it up with holiday yummies. Refrigerators can contain germs especially dirty fridges. Change tea towels daily or more frequently as the need requires. If you are washing up with fabric dishcloths, and a sponge that is more than one week old, throw them away now. Replace them with disposable cloths, and only use for 24-36 hours. Make sure they are dried between each use. Take care to clean chopping boards thoroughly after each use. Glass cutting boards are considered more hygienic and easier to clean than plastic or wood. Color-coded chopping boards are inexpensive and available from most supermarkets now. These colored boards are designed for use with certain foods, e.g., one color for meat, another color for fruit, etc. Can openers should be cleaned between each use as well as wiping the lid of the can before opening.
Storing food correctly should be looked at here. All perishable foods are best kept either very hot or very cold. Don’t leave cooked food on the bench to "cool" before refrigerating, instead place in refrigerator as soon as the first burst of steam has subsided. Store and or use foods according to the instructions on the labels. Do not reheat or re-cook leftovers more than once. Stack your refrigerator according to the degree of drip from the food. For example, place meats on the bottom shelves to avoid juices dripping onto other foods such as fruit.
Food related illness is usually preventable when a little commonsense is added. Germs like to grow on food particularly in temperatures between 5 and 60 degrees Celsius. Wash all raw foods such as salad vegetables, fruit, and root foods before preparing or eating them. Certain foods are more likely to grow harmful germs than others, for instance, uncooked meats including pastrami, salami and mettwurst. Other examples are chicken, seafood, cooked rice, eggs, sauces and gravies.
Remember, clean hands and the correct handling, preparation, cooking and storage of food will prevent most episodes of ill health related to what is eaten by you or your guests.