Friday, February 22, 2008

Safe Food Preparation and Handling

All of us who prepare food at home for our families and even those who only store their daily restaurant leftovers can benefit from some knowledge of safe food handling. Avoiding foodborne illness is of special importance for the safety of children, seniors, and anyone with a compromised immune system or serious illness. Here we will only touch on the important basics.

Main types of contaminants

Biological hazards include bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi, as well as certain toxin-carrying plants, mushrooms and fish. By far the most common problem comes from bacterial contamination, partly due to the growth rate of bacteria in favorable conditions. Bacteria can reproduce every twenty minutes... from one lone bacterium to a colony of one billion in only ten hours!
Also of concern is chemical/toxin poisoning, which can occur from large bacterial growths (despite killing the bacteria with heat, the waste products of a large colony are toxic) or improper use of cleaners or even cookware. Luckily we can control conditions like cooking, reheating and storage temperatures, as well as workspace and personal sanitation to help ensure the safety of the food we’re preparing for our friends and family.

The Eight Steps

Practice strict personal hygiene: It all starts with you! Clean your hands and forearms with hot water and anti-bacterial soap for at least 20 seconds (remove jewelry), paying particular attention to under fingernails. Cuts or abrasions must be clean, disinfected, and covered with a clean bandage (and preferably a rubber finger ‘cot’ to cover the bandage). This is very important... open wounds are a major source of bacteria. And now that your hands are sparkling, avoid touching your face or other possible sources of contamination while working.

Monitor time and temperature: Please purchase a good food thermometer, one that’s accurate from 0°F to 200°F. There’s no substitute for this important tool! The most important concept to learn is that food can only be in the Temperature Danger Zone for less than 4 hours. That zone is 41°F to 140°F, and is the temperature range where bacteria grow rapidly. This 4-hour period is accumulative! Therefore, meat in the car coming from market that rises above 41°F is spending time in the zone. After you cook it, the time it takes for you to cool the leftovers to below 41 degrees is time in the zone. The time it takes you to reheat and the time it sits later on the table cooling down are counted as well. Do your best to keep track, and try not to approach 4 hours too often is an important part of this cycle as well.

Prevent Cross Contamination: Cross contamination occurs when pathogens are accidentally transferred from one surface or food to another. Most important is the avoidance of corrupting cooked or ready-to-eat foods with raw, possibly contaminated ingredients. So, be sure to keep chopping boards cleaned and sanitized between ingredients. While it may be “safe” (but a horrible idea) to chop celery, that you’re about to boil in soup, on a board that just held a raw chicken, it could be deadly if the celery is for your potato salad! Always wash vegetables, but with extra care if they’re going into an uncooked salad. The rag used to clean up your chicken chopping is now done for the day. In fact, a good tip is to have a few color coded boards for veggies and meat, AND to work on one at a time. Try cleaning and cutting your meat first, set aside, and then sanitize the entire area. Now work on the rest of the meal.

Clean and Sanitize Equipment and Surfaces: Sure, this is just common sense, but requires due diligence. Purchase one of the commercial sanitizing sprays for the kitchen, and follow the product’s directions AFTER making everything visibly clean with soap and water. Sanitize your counter, chop boards, utensils and your kitchen sink, especially near the drain. Re-sanitize after working with raw meats and vegetables, and remember to keep cleaning your hands throughout the cooking process.

Cook Foods to Proper Temperatures: Now that we have convinced you to buy a good thermometer, for proper meat temperatures.

Proper Holding Temperatures: It’s important to keep potentially hazardous foods at the proper temperature (i.e.: out of the Temperature Danger Zone) when serving them over long periods of time (even a few hours). So, hot foods must be kept above 140°F and cold foods below 41°F.

Proper Cooling of Cooked Foods: Since bacteria reproduce even faster from 70-125°F, it’s important to cool cooked food to below 70° within just two hours, and then from 70-40° within 4 hours. Don’t put the food into the refrigerator until you’ve reached 70°, as it will warm up other items in the fridge and not cool quickly enough. Use stirring, an ice bath, and smaller containers to reach that temperature before using the fridge. Stir a few time while in the fridge and you’re done.

And Proper Reheating: Reheat food for service to an internal temperature of 165°F for at least 15 seconds, within 2 hours.

Calibrating Cooking Thermometers

There are two ways to check the accuracy of a food thermometer. One method uses ice water, the other uses boiling water. Many food thermometers have a calibration nut under the dial that can be adjusted. Check the package for instructions.

Ice Water
To use the ice water method, fill a large glass with finely crushed ice. Add clean tap water to the top of the ice and stir well. Immerse the food thermometer stem a minimum of 2 inches into the mixture, touching neither the sides nor the bottom of the glass. Wait a minimum of 30 seconds before adjusting. (For ease in handling, the stem of the food thermometer can be placed through the clip section of the stem sheath and, holding the sheath horizontally, lowered into the water.) Without removing the stem from the ice, hold the adjusting nut under the head of the thermometer with a suitable tool and turn the head so the pointer reads 32 °F.

Boiling Water
To use the boiling water method, bring a pot of clean tap water to a full rolling boil. Immerse the stem of a food thermometer in boiling water a minimum of 2 inches and wait at least 30 seconds. (For ease in handling, the stem of the food thermometer can be placed through the clip section of the stem sheath and, holding the sheath horizontally, lowered into the boiling water.) Without removing the stem from the pan, hold the adjusting nut under the head of the food thermometer with a suitable tool and turn the head so the thermometer reads 212 °F.
For true accuracy, distilled water must be used and the atmospheric pressure must be one atmosphere (29.921 inches of mercury). A consumer using tap water in unknown atmospheric conditions would probably not measure water boiling at 212 °F. Most likely it would boil at least 2 °F, and perhaps as much as 5 °F, lower. Remember that water boils at a lower temperature in a high altitude area. Check with the local Cooperative Extension Service or Health Department for the exact temperature of boiling water.

Even if the food thermometer cannot be calibrated, it should still be checked for accuracy using either method. Any inaccuracies can be taken into consideration when using the food thermometer, or the food thermometer can be replaced. For example, water boils at 212 °F. If the food thermometer reads 214 °F in boiling water, it is reading 2 degrees too high. Therefore 2 degrees must be subtracted from the temperature displayed when taking a reading in food to find out the true temperature. In another example, for safety, ground beef patties must reach 160 °F. If the thermometer is reading 2 degrees too high, 2 degrees would be added to the desired temperature, meaning hamburger patties must be cooked to 162 °F

Proper Food Defrosting

The Big Thaw - Safe Defrosting Methods for Consumers.

Uh, oh! You're home and forgot to defrost something for dinner. You grab a package of meat or chicken and use hot water to thaw it fast. But is this safe? What if you remembered to take food out of the freezer, but forgot and left the package on the counter all day while you were at work?

Neither of these situations are safe, and these methods of thawing lead to foodborne illness. Food must be kept at a safe temperature during "the big thaw." Foods are safe indefinitely while frozen. However, as soon as food begins to defrost and become warmer than 40°F, any bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to multiply.

"Foods should never be thawed or even stored on the counter, or defrosted in hot water. Food left above 40°F (unrefrigerated) is not at a safe temperature," cautions.

Even though the center of the package may still be frozen as it thaws on the counter, the outer layer of the food is in the "Danger Zone," between 40 and 140°F – at temperatures where bacteria multiply rapidly.

"When defrosting frozen foods, it's best to plan ahead and thaw food in the refrigerator where food will remain at a safe, constant temperature -- 40°F or below," recommends.

There are three safe ways to defrost food: in the refrigerator, in cold water.

Refrigerator Thawing
Planning ahead is the key to this method because of the lengthy time involved. A large frozen item like a turkey requires at least a day (24 hours) for every 5 pounds of weight. Even small amounts of frozen food -- such as a pound of ground meat or boneless chicken breasts -- require a full day to thaw. When thawing foods in the refrigerator, there are several variables to take into account.
Some areas of an appliance may keep the food colder than other areas. Food placed in the coldest part will require longer defrosting time.
Food takes longer to thaw in a refrigerator set at 35°F than one set at 40°F.

After thawing in the refrigerator, ground meat and poultry should remain useable for an additional day or two before cooking; red meat, 3 to 5 days. Foods defrosted in the refrigerator can be refrozen without cooking, although there may be some loss of quality.

Cold Water Thawing
This method is faster than refrigerator thawing but requires more attention. The food must be in a leak-proof package or plastic bag. If the bag leaks, bacteria from the air or surrounding environment could be introduced into the food. Also, meat tissue can also absorb water like a sponge, resulting in a watery product.

The bag should be submerged in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes so it continues to thaw. Small packages of meat or poultry – about a pound – may defrost in an hour or less. A 3- to 4-pound package may take 2 to 3 hours. For whole turkeys, estimate about 30 minutes per pound. If thawed completely, the food must be cooked immediately. Foods thawed by the cold water method should be cooked before refreezing.

Food Safety
Special Note:
This advice about keeping food and cookware safe and clean is meant to protect you from the germs that they carry. HIV cannot be spread by food or water. Feel free to have friends in your kitchen and to cook and share meals with them there.

You have to be careful with food when you are infected with HIV. It can easily give you infections and make you very, very sick. There are germs on all the food we bring home from the grocery store. You need to handle the food right, cook it right and store it right to keep those germs from getting to you.

Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly.
Use a vegetable brush designed for this purpose.
Throw away any fruit or vegetable which has a rotten or moldy spot on it.
Cook meat thoroughly. You might want to buy a meat thermometer to help you know for sure that it is done. Put the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat and not touching a bone. Cook the meat till it reaches 165 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit on your thermometer.

Do not eat raw meats or fish, even in small amounts.
No sushi or rare steak.
Order restaurant meats cooked Medium to done.
Thaw frozen meats and other frozen foods in the refrigerator or in a Chiller to defrost.
Never thaw foods at room temperature. Germs that grow at room temperature can make you very sick.
Don't eat raw eggs. Cook all eggs till firm. Don't eat contains raw eggs. If you wish to add an egg to milkshake or make egg nog, use a pasteurized product like "Egg-beaters."Don't use cracked eggs. Look for cracks in the shell before you buy them.
Use different cutting boards for raw foods and cooked foods.
Throw away moldy cheese. It is not good enough to just cut off the moldy part.
Don't let hot foods cool down at room temperature. Put them in the refrigerator right away. If it is a large amount of food, put it in 2 or 3 containers (Stainless)so the refrigerator can cool it all quickly.Keep your refrigerator cold.
You might wish to get a refrigerator thermometer. Keep it set no higher than 40 degrees. Your freezer should be at 0 degrees.
Use hot, sudsy water to wash you dishes. Let it out of the sink when it gets dirty and replace it with new.
Any food germs left on your plate can make you sick the next time you eat from it.
Keep everything clean. Clean your counters often and clean them well.
Wash your hands with soap and water a lot during cooking.
Don't use foods past the recommended date on the label. Even though this never made you sick in the past, it may now!
Don't taste anything that you think might be spoiled. If in doubt, throw it out!
Use pasteurized milk only. This means it has been treated with heat to destroy harmful germs. Look for the word "pasteurized" on the label.
Do not drink milk fresh from the cow!
If you have old dishes, cups or plastic containers with a lot of scratches in them, throw them out. Germs love to hide in scratches and they are very difficult to clean out of there.
Wear rubber gloves when handling raw meat. This will prevent germs from entering any open cuts or sores on your hands.
Hurry home from the grocery store! If the cold or frozen foods you buy warm up in your car, germs can grow that may make you sick later.

Mental Health Issues

The way you feel can make a difference in your appetite. If you are sad, lonely, or worried you might not feel like eating as much as when you are feeling more satisfied with life.

Here are some ideas to help make mealtimes more cheerful.
  1. Firstly Take Wudhu then preform Solat pray to ALLAH and ask for forgiveness.
  2. Share mealtimes with people you enjoy. Invite them to your home or go to theirs.
  3. Pack up some food for a picnic in the outdoors. Try the park, beach, or even your back yard.
  4. Bring a piece of bread to feed birds or squirrels. The sunshine, fresh air and company of animals will help you feel better.
  5. Change where you eat daily. Always eating in the kitchen or in the bedroom makes meals less interesting.
  6. Try eating in the bathtub or on your porch or patio.
  7. Go for a short walk before eating. Exercise is good for you anyway. A walk in the fresh air can give you quite an appetite.
  8. Have a glass of plain water read FATIHAH then blow it slowly to the glass of plain filter water (Much batter with ZAM ZAM) before dinner. It will help your relax and gives a good appetite.
  9. Read interesting book during your meals.
  10. Try not to just stand in the kitchen and eat out of the pot.
  11. Take the time to put your food on a plate and sit down at a table to eat.
  12. You are worth it!
  13. Make your meals attractive. Spruce up your plate with a sprig of celery, a slice of lemon or other simple garnish.
  14. Buy colored paper napkins.
  15. Put some fresh flowers on the table.
  16. Pick them yourself or buy some daisies.

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