Guide to Safe Food Handling

A guide to tell you what to do at each step in food handling - from shopping to storing leftovers - to avoid food poisoning.

Never had food poisoning? Actually, it's called food borne illness. Perhaps you have, but thought you were sick with the flu. Some 2 million plus uk citizens will suffer from foodborne illness this year.

Why? Because at the right temperature, bacteria you can't see , smell or taste can multiply to the millions in a few short hours. In large numbers, they cause illness.


Buy cold food last, get it home fast

When you are out shopping, buy food last. take food straight home to the refrigerator. Never leave food in a hot car!
Do not buy anything that you will not use before the use by date.
Do not buy food in poor condition. make sure refrigerated food is cold to the touch. Frozen food should be rock hard. Canned goods should be free from dents cracks or bulging lids which can indicate a serious food poisoning threat.


Keep it safe, refrigerate:

Check the temperature of your refrigerator with an appliance thermometer which you can buy at a good hardware shop. To keep bacteria in check , the refrigerator should run at no more that 40 deg.F +5 deg.C Generally, keep your refrigerator as cold as possible without freezing your milk.

Freeze fresh meat, poultry or fish immediately if you cannot use it within 48 hours.
Put packages of raw meat, poultry or fish on a plate (do not leave wrapped) before refrigerating so their juices will not drip on other food. Raw juices often contain bacteria.




Without power, a full upright or chest freezer will keep everything frozen for about 2 days. A half full freezer will keep food frozen for about 1 day.

If power the power will be coming back on fairly soon, you can make food last longer by keeping the door shut as much as possible.

if the power will be off for an extended period, take the food to a friends freezer, or locate a commercial freezer (Your local friendly butcher perhaps).

Your Refrigerator - Freezer Combination

Without power, the refrigerator section will keep food cool 4 - 6 hours depending on the kitchen temperature.
A full, well - functioning freezer unit should keep food frozen for 2 days. A half - full freezer unit should keep things frozen for about 1 day.


Food still containing ice crystals or that feels refrigerator - cold can be refrozen.

Discard any thawed food that has risen to room temperature and remained there for 2 hours or more. Immediately discard anything with a strange colour or odor.



Keep everything clean. Thaw in Refrigerator

Wash hands in hot soapy water before preparing food and after using the bathroom, changing nappies and handling pets.
Bacteria can live in kitchen towels, sponges and cloths. Wash them often. Replace sponges every few weeks.
Keep raw meat, poultry and fish and their juices away from other food. For instance, wash your hands, cutting board and knife in hot soapy water after cutting up the chicken and before dicing salad ingredients.
Use plastic cutting boards rather than wooden ones where bacteria can hide in grooves.
Thaw food in the microwave or refrigerator, NOT on the kitchen work surfaces. The danger? Bacteria can grow on the outer layers of the food before the inside thaws. Marinate in the refrigerator too.



Cook thoroughly:
It takes thorough cooking to kill harmful bacteria, so you are taking chances when you eat meat, poultry, fish or eggs that are raw or only partly cooked. Plus, Burgers that are red in the middle, rare and medium - rare steak and roast beef are also under cooked for the safety standpoint.

Cook meat to an internal temperature of 180 deg. F or 70 deg. C Use a meat thermometer to check that it is cooked all the way through.
To check visually, red meat is done when it is brown or gray inside. poultry juices runs clear. Fish flakes with a fork.
Salmonella, a bacteria that causes food poisoning, can grow inside fresh, unbroken eggs. So, cook eggs until the yoke and white are firm, and not runny. Scramble eggs to a firm texture. do not use recipes in which eggs remain raw or only partially cooked.
When you cook ahead, divide large portions of food into small, shallow containers for refrigeration. This ensures safe, rapid cooling.


A great timesaver, the microwave has one food safety disadvantage. It sometimes leaves cold spots in food. Bacteria can survive in these spots. So..
Cover food with a lid or plastic wrap so steam can aid thorough cooking. Vent wrap and make sure that it dose not touch the food.
Stir and rotate your food for even cooking. No turntable? Rotate the dish by hand once or twice during cooking.
Observe the standing time called for in a recipe or package directions. During the standing time, food finishes cooking.
Use the oven temperature probe or the meat thermometer to check that the food is done. Insert it at several spots.



Never leave it out over 2 hours

Use clean dishes and utensils to serve food, not those used in the preparation. Serve grilled food on a clean plate too, not one that held raw meat, poultry or fish.
Never leave perishable food out of the refrigerator over 2 hours! Bacteria that can cause food poisoning grow quickly in warm temperatures.
Pack lunches in insulated carriers with a cold pack. Caution children never to leave lunches indirect sun or on a warm radiator.
Carry picnic food in a cooler with a cold pack. When possible, put the cool box in the shade. Keep the lid on as much as possible.
Party time? Keep cold party food on ice or serve it throughout the gathering from platters from the refrigerator.
Likewise, divide hot party food into smaller serving platters. Keep platters refrigerated until time to warm them up for serving.



Use small containers for quick cooling:

Divide large amounts of leftovers into small, shallow containers for quick cooling in the refrigerator. Do not pack the refrigerator - cool air must circulate to keep food safe.
With poultry or other stuffed meats remove the stuffing and refrigerate it in separate containers.


Bring sauces, soups and gravy to the boil. Heat other leftovers thoroughly to 70 deg.C.
Microwave leftovers using a lid or vented plastic wrap for thorough heating.



When in doubt, throw it out:

Safe refrigerator and freezer storage time limits are given for many common foods in the "Cold Storage" table. But what about something you totally forgot about and may have kept too long?


- never taste food that looks or smells strange to see if you can still use it. Just discard it.
Is it moldy? The mold you can see is only the tip of the iceberg. Poisons molds can form under the surface of the food. So, while you can sometimes save hard cheese and salamis and firm fruits and vegetables by cutting the mold out - remove a large area around it, most moldy food should be discarded.

Product-meat Refrigerator(+0deg.C) Freezer(-20deg.C)
Bacon Gammon 7 days 4 to 6 weeks
fresh meats steaks chops joints 3 to 5 days 4 to 6 months
fresh poultry 1 to 2 days up to 1 year
cooked meats 3 to 4 days 2 to 3 months
liver kidneys hearts 1 to 2 days 3 to 4 months
fresh eggs up to 3 weeks do not freeze
soups vegetable or meat 3 to 4 days 2 to 3 months
sausages 2 to 3 days 1 to 2 months
meat pies 1 to 2 days 1 to 2 months

Freezing Beef, Lamb or Pork

Select only high quality, fresh meats to freeze. Cured meats such as ham and bacon can only be frozen for a short period of time (one to three months) because the salt in them hastens rancidity.


Freshly slaughtered meat carcasses or primal cuts need to be cooled to below 40F within 24 hours to prevent souring or spoiling. The meat should be chilled to 32 to 36F Offals (liver, heart or sweetbreads) are ready to be wrapped and frozen after they are cold. After 24 hours, pork and lamb are ready to be cut, wrapped and frozen. Beef may be left at the 32 to 36F temperature for a total of five to seven days to age the meat, making it more tender and flavorful.


Depending on individual preferences for the number of servings and cooking methods, the meat can be cut into roasts, rolled roasts, steaks, chops, stew meat, minced meat, etc., before freezing.


Package the meat in freezer paper or wrap, using butcher wrap. Freezer bags or containers can be used for ground beef, stew beef or other meats frozen into small portions. Store-bought meats need to be over-wrapped, since their clear packaging is not moisture-vapor resistant. If you purchase film-wrapped meats from the meat packer, check to see if the wrap is a new heavy-duty freezer film. If so, it needs no over-wrapping. Package the meat in meal-size portions, removing as many bones as possible (they take up freezer space). Place two layers of freezer paper or wrap between slices or patties of meat so they are easier to separate when frozen. This will help speed thawing.


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