Did you know that your kitchen sink might contain more germs that your bathroom? You may wonder how do these germs make it to your kitchen in the first place! Well, we’re here to help you understand how this happens, and to provide you with practical ways in which you can keep your kitchen clean, and your food safe to consume.
Simply put, bacteria (or germs) are usually present on your hands, in raw foods, and on pets. These bacteria can then spread onto surfaces that they come in contact with. If they make their way into your food, your chances of developing food poisoning (also referred to as “food-borne illness”) increase.
Food-borne illness is essentially when you ingest a food which is contaminated either with a bacteria or a toxin which a particular bacteria produces. Soon after you consume the contaminated food, you may begin to experience stomach cramps, diarrhea or nausea. The symptoms often vary depending on the source of contamination (i.e. the type of bacteria or toxin) and the infected person’s level of immunity. Therefore, it is of great importance that you handle, cook, and store foods correctly, as this will help keep the stomach cramps away.
Below are a few practical tips that you can follow at home in order to ensure that your kitchen is kept clean and your food safe to consume:
- Keep your hands clean:Your hands are the main way through which germs are spread, particularly in the kitchen. This is why it is very important for you to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling food, and immediately after handling raw meats. Of course, don’t forget to wash them after you use the toilet or touch the bin.
- Cook and clean foods well::Cooking food the correct temperature, particularly meats, will ensure that harmful bacteria in the food are destroyed. When cooking burgers, sausages and chicken, slice through the center of the meat and ensure that it is no longer pink. Another indication that the meat is cooked through is when the juices of the meat are clear, not pink. Fresh produce can also be a source of bacteria so be sure to wash them well. This does not mean using soap! Soap can get into the pores of the fruits or vegetables, and may be potentially harmful in the long run. Scrub them well with water, or use a mild acid such as household vinegar.
- Separate:Cross-contamination is a common way through which people develop food-borne illnesses. The simplest way to avoid cross-contamination is to make sure you do not mix raw meat, fish or poultry with other ready-to-eat foods. Make sure you have separate and clearly marked cutting boards for different food types. Ideally, you should have a separate board for chicken, fish, meat and vegetables. You can mark them with a label, or buy different colored cutting boards for easy reference.
- Refrigerate:Avoid leaving raw meats or cooked food at room temperature for long. Raw meat, fish and poultry should either be frozen, or refrigerated immediately after you return home from the supermarket. Cooked foods should be refrigerated no longer than two hours after being cooked. Chilling foods correctly prevents bacteria from multiplying and potentially making these them unsafe for consumption.
- Clean up:Once you are done cooking, make sure to clean all worktops and cutting boards thoroughly. If you’re out of detergent, use household vinegar. The acid contained in vinegar is strong enough to destroy most bacteria that may be present on your kitchen counters. If not cleaned properly, these areas may be a source of cross-contamination of other clean foods. If your kitchen cloth is always damp, then it needs to be replaced. Damp kitchen towels are the perfect place for bacteria to breed. Make sure that you dry your kitchen cloth well before using it again, and make sure to replace it frequently.
These are a few simple tips which you can easily follow at home to ensure that you keep you foods clean, and your family healthy. If you’re a fan of eating out, try to avoid ordering undercooked meats (rare, or medium cooked meats), as this increases your chances of getting ill. If you enjoy your salads, consider ordering them with a vinegar based dressing, so that even if the produce was not washed well, the vinegar will take care of any left-over bacteria.
This article offers general advice and may not be applicable to you. Before making any changes to your diet, be sure to consult a qualified health-care professional.