Many people think that when we suffer from sickness and tummy upset, it is the result of germs picked up from outside the home. In fact, most germs are actually picked up in the home and is a direct result of poor kitchen hygiene, with germs from raw foods (including meat, poultry, eggs, fish and seafood, raw fruit and vegetables) being transferred to kitchen surfaces or other foods whilst preparing meals, or food not being cooked properly.
Avoid germs in the home by following the four Cs of food safety: Cross-Contamination, Cleaning, Cooking and Chilling.
The Four Cs of food hygiene
One of the biggest causes of tummy upset is cross contamination. This is when germs on one food are accidentally passed to other foods – usually from a person’s hands or kitchen utensils. But these health risks can be easily prevented:
- Wash your hands with soap and clean water before touching food and immediately after handling raw food (e.g. meat, eggs), handling bins, touching pets, or going to the toilet.
- Clean and disinfect all surfaces immediately after preparing food
- Ideally, use different colour-coded chopping boards for raw and ready-to-eat foods
- Cover food or keep it in sealed containers to stop germs getting in
- Store and prepare raw food away from cooked and ready-to-eat foods
- Keep any pets or animals away from food preparation and eating areas
- Decontaminate items in the right way at the right time to remove any germs and help stop them spreading to food
- Make sure all utensils and equipment are spotlessly clean before use
- Regularly clean and disinfect things that people often touch, such as taps, cupboard handles and switches
- Clean all food preparation surfaces with surface disinfectant spray or wipes immediately after preparing food. For direct food contact surfaces, rinse thoroughly with water after product has been used.
- Use paper towels or disposable cloths if possible and if you if you reuse cloths, decontaminate them between each task
Cook meat thoroughly to kill the germs that cause tummy upset. To check your meat is cooked, insert a knife into the thickest part – there should be no sign of pink meat and any juices should run clear. When reheating food, make sure it is steaming hot all the way through, and never reheat food more than once.
Keeping foods cool (0–5°C) or frozen slows the growth of bacteria. Always check the storage instructions and ‘use by’ date on your food’s packaging. If you have any leftovers, cover and store them in your fridge or freezer within two hours of cooking, making sure they have completely cooled first. Separate them into smaller containers to speed up cooling if necessary.