Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

Food safety: Here’s how to ensure what you eat isn’t contaminated

Food is more easily contaminated in hot weather outside the fridge.

It is important to keep food safe from the time you buy it at a store until it ends up on your family’s plates. The death of children recently believed to be from food poisoning shows just how important it is to ensure that food is not contaminated.

While stores that sell food have a responsibility to ensure the food you buy meets food safety standards, there is much that you can do yourself to ensure that the food stays safe from the time you buy it until your family eats it. It is important to handle and store food correctly so that it does not become contaminated with bacteria.

Food safety when you shop

  • Do not buy frozen or fresh food and leave it in your car while you do the rest of your shopping. Plan your day so that you can buy these items last and take them straight home and put them in the fridge or freezer.
  • Do not buy products that you will not use before the expiry date.

ALSO READ: Food poisoning source in Soweto children deaths ‘not confirmed’

Food safety in your house

Be very careful with refrigerated products and follow these guidelines:

  • Make sure your fridge is set below 5° celsius and your freezer below 0° celsius.
  • Keep all refrigerated products in the refrigerator until you eat them.
  • Store perishables, convenience foods and leftover foods in the refrigerator or freeze them within two hours of buying or preparing them.
  • Freeze fresh meat, fish and poultry immediately if you are not going to use them within a day or two.

ALSO READ: Everything you need to know about expiry dates on food

Keep different foodstuffs apart

It is also important to make sure that one food type does not infect another with germs. Follow these guidelines to ensure this does not happen:

  • Prepare vegetables and salads before preparing poultry or raw meat. If you prepare the meat first, double check that your chopping boards and knives are clean before cutting the vegetables.
  • Make sure that the liquid from raw meat, poultry and seafood does not drip onto pre-prepared food in the fridge.
  • Do not put cooked food on the same plate that you used for the raw food. The raw food can leave bacteria on the plate, which can infect the cooked food although the cooking process killed it.
  • Use paper towels to wipe up the bloodiness of meat and not dish towels.

The right cooking methods are also important, even if you are in a hurry. Keep these guidelines in mind when you cook food:

  • Thaw food in the refrigerator or microwave and not in the sink or on the kitchen counter.
  • Marinate meat in the refrigerator.
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure food is cooked throughout.
  • Heat sauces, marinade, soups and broths until they cook throughout to kill bacteria.
  • Make sure food prepared in the microwave is fully cooked. Stir or turn it over to make sure there are no parts that are still cold.

When serving food, it is also important to follow these guidelines:

  • Use clean serving trays and spoons to serve food.
  • Do not leave perishable food outside the refrigerator for more than two hours. In summer, do not leave it outside the fridge for more than 30 minutes.

It is also important to handle leftover food correctly to ensure it is not contaminated:

  • Store leftover food in the refrigerator in small plastic or glass containers with a lid to ensure that it cools quickly.
  • Do not store meat and vegetables together.
  • Discard leftover food after two to three days.

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