Summer promises sunshine, heat and carefree gatherings with families and friends. It also coincides with an increase in the risk of food poisoning as warmer temperatures cause foodborne germs to thrive.
Mosa Lietsiso from Johannesburg learned this the hard way, when he attended a family reunion for a spit braai in Vereeniging no less than 50 minutes away.
“The sheep was cooked off site which was fine but the meat was cut up and served in those catering dishes, I love meat so I couldn’t help myself,” he says. “The meat did not taste funny or anything, it was just lukewarm, around two AM when I was home it started, for the next two to three days I just could not enjoy my festive season.”
Monique Tobias from Kimberley says that the temperature that cooked food is stored in is as essential as a clean kitchen counter in food preparation. To ensure that she does not endanger the health of her loved ones she cools meals for about an hour before refrigerating her dishes.
“My dad always likes to joke and says if we leave it out for longer than an hour we don’t eat because then our food would have gone off.”
Zayne De Korter also from Kimberley often goes hunting and fishing with his family in the winter time. To make sure that meat is safe to eat for the summer his family makes biltong and bokkoms. “Winter is hunting season, after winter comes and goes we make biltong and it’s ready for us to eat by summer.”
Golden rules for summer food safety
Larger meals take longer to make and this means that they are always going to be at high risk for spoilage says the director of Food Consulting Services, Shane Rimmel. Be extra careful with dishes including meats, egg-based dishes and rice dishes.
More food, also means you’ll need more space in the fridge. “Keeping raw and ready-to-eat (RTE) foods separate is a food safety golden rule. This means raw meats and raw vegetables should be kept together and away from foods that won’t be cooked.”
Rimmel has 10 golden rules for summer food safety:
Hygiene 101: Keeping your hands clean and germ-free is at the top of the kitchen hygiene rules list. It’s easy for bacteria to be transferred from raw foods to your hands to everywhere else in the kitchen, so wash your hands throughout food prep and before and after cooking food.
Storage is everything: Always store raw meats on the lowest possible shelf in your fridge. Raw vegetables in the vegetable drawer or above the raw meats.
Coverage is key: Make sure all food is covered and sealed completely. This limits exposure to the air, which keeps a better shelf-life for your foods, and prevents bad smells in the fridge.
A clean fridge is a happy fridge: The best way to save space in the fridge is to clear out all the old and expired food in your fridge. Portion and pack foods in containers that are stackable on the shelves. Space the shelves according to the type of foods you have.
Cook foods thoroughly: If undercooked, harmful bacteria could lead to food poisoning. High temperatures (+70°C) are the best way to kill harmful bacteria such as E.coli, Salmonella, and Listeria monocytogenes. Keeping foods above 60°C during serving is also important.
Clean-as-you-go: Keeping kitchen countertops and food equipment clean after every use is one of the easiest basic kitchen hygiene rules. You’ll not only be keeping things clean and tidy, but you’ll also be stopping the spread of bacteria.
Don’t cross-contaminate: If you’ve ever had food poisoning, you’ll understand why avoiding cross-contamination is high on the list of basic kitchen hygiene rules. Use different cutting boards for preparing fish, meat, veg, dairy, or bread.
Scrub basins daily: Basins quickly become grimy and covered with bacteria if not cleaned regularly. Give your sink a quick scrub with a scour and a spritz of cleaner and sanitiser once a day. Also never rinse raw chicken in the basin. Bacteria from the chicken spreads around the basin, contaminating anything you wash in the basin.
Bin basics: Changing your bin is a key aspect of kitchen hygiene. Old food in a bin will soon decompose and bacteria will start to form. Not to mention the bad odours and on occasion the little white squirmy maggots.
Stay prepared: Load shedding and water shortages are our reality. If you can, make sure you have a gas cooker as a back-up, or a generator to run the most important appliances, like your fridge and freezer.