Good practices in food handling: Are you doing everything right?

We love to talk about recipes and tell you about gastronomic news. But when it comes to cooking (and that’s the heart of the Good Gourmet), we also need to talk about good practices in food handling.

The kitchen is a main source of contamination in the house and this is often due to incorrect hygiene of the food and utensils we use. Sometimes we even think we are doing the right process. But not quite.

Next, we list 7 common mistakes and teach you some good practices in food handling. Are you doing everything right? Doctor in Microbiology and professor of the Biomedicine course at Universidade Positivo (UP), Giovana Carolina Bodnar is the one who gives the explanations.

1. Wash fruits and vegetables only with water

Sometimes, the urge is just to pass a water on the fruits and vegetables and consume. But the correct thing is to take it in running water and then perform the hygiene with a chlorinated solution, leaving the food to soak for about 10 minutes. “Then, you have to rinse it again in running water and let the food dry naturally before storing it.” To prepare the chlorinated solution, dilute a tablespoon of bleach, which has between 2% and 2.5% of active chlorine, in one liter of water.

2. Forgetting to wash your hands before handling food

This is one of the first hygiene lessons we learn in life, but it seems like it needs to be repeated over and over again. You need to wash your hands very well, especially before handling food. This prevents them from transmitting bacteria to the food being prepared. “The correct thing is to wash them with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds, also between the fingers and under the nails, which are parts not always remembered in hand hygiene.”

And no fiddling with your phone while cooking. The cell phone accompanies us everywhere and carries with it a series of bacteria. So, there’s little point in washing your hands and then using your cell phone and then going to cook.

3. Wash the chicken and other meats

This is controversial. Especially when it comes to chicken. Many people learned from their grandmothers that they have to wash the chicken to remove the stronger smell of the bird’s meat. Do not do it.

According to Giovana, when we wash these foods, the bacteria present can sneeze and spread to other surfaces near the sink, contaminating these places and causing cross-contamination. Smelly meat is a sign of storage problems. Change the place where you buy it and observe how the protein is transported and stored in your home.

4. Store food anywhere in the fridge

The temperature in the refrigerator varies between compartments. So, for each type of food there is a more suitable storage place. “Fresh foods and foods that have already been cooked need lower temperatures to be well preserved. Therefore, they should be kept in the coldest places in the refrigerator, such as the highest shelves and drawers”, he warns.

You also need to be aware of how long the food will be stored in the fridge. Meat, cold cuts and some sausages should not last more than three days. Foods eaten raw, hand should keep for more than a week. For milk, it is recommended to stay in the fridge for a maximum of five days.

5. Wait for the food to cool down to refrigerate

There’s another custom that we learn from our elders and it’s far from good food handling practices: waiting for the food to cool down before storing it in the fridge. This would be important to save electricity. But, the cheap can come out well in case. That’s because letting food cool before putting it in the fridge can benefit the proliferation of bacteria.

“There are bacteria that proliferate at slightly higher temperatures, around 30°C. Therefore, after the meal, if the food remains on the stove, sink or counter, the temperature gradually drops until it reaches an ideal condition for the multiplication of these bacteria”, explains Giovana.

So, no more letting the jars of beans cool before going to the freezer or those leftovers from lunch in the pans over the sink until dinner time. After the meal, the leftovers must be stored properly and go straight to the refrigerator.

6. Use the same dish towel and sponge for a long time

Dish towels and sponges are ideal breeding grounds for bacteria. Therefore, they must be sanitized correctly and changed frequently. For the sponge, the exchange must be carried out at least once a week. To sanitize it, Giovanna suggests two options. “Put a pot of water on the stove, and when it starts to boil, leave the sponge in the water for three to four minutes. It is also possible to prepare a solution with a liter of water and two tablespoons of commercial bleach, leaving the sponge for ten minutes in the solution,” she says.

7. Not washing the sink and refrigerator

Here the mothers were right: it is not enough to wash the dishes. It is also necessary to wash and clean the sink and countertop. According to Giovana, whenever there is food handling in these areas, they must be cleaned to avoid the proliferation of bacteria and possible cross-contamination.

And the refrigerator also enters the cleaning. In this case, it doesn’t have to be daily, but at least once a month the fridge needs and must be sanitized.

“For effective cleaning of the interior, you should empty the fridge and check the expiration date and food quality. Then, remove the shelves and wash the interior of the appliance with water and neutral detergent, using a clean sponge, and rinse with a damp cloth until all the soap is removed. Finally, it is necessary to dry it with a dry and clean cloth”, teaches Giovana.

The outside of the refrigerator should also be clean. For this, use water and neutral detergent. Let it dry naturally.

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