Summer is a time of celebration and feasting, but it can also be a time when food-borne illnesses are more common. With all the extra cooking and eating that goes on during this time of year, it’s important to take extra care while practising food safety to ensure that you and your loved ones stay safe and healthy.
Food safety and quality control officer Nompumelelo Mnguni from Pretoria highlights that most cases of food poisoning occur frequently during the festive season due to warm temperatures and overexcitement that cause mishandling of food. This is exacerbated by long periods of load shedding when there is no power to keep food cold.
“Overexcitement also leads to improper preparation, cross-contamination, inadequate storage, and oversight,” she says.
Holiday food issues
According to Mnguni, common mishandling of holiday foods revolves around not adhering to the food cold chain, such as incorrect storage conditions, and food preparation and instructions such as undercooking or baking.
“Food must be handled properly, from the point of purchase to your home. For example, always put your perishable (uncooked meat or cake) items in a cooler bag. Follow the preparation instructions and storage conditions,” she advises.
“Most importantly, always practice cleaning and sanitation at all times. Hands, utensils, and surfaces that are in contact with food must be cleaned, and food must not be left uncovered.”
If impacted by food poisoning, she advises to let your stomach settle. Drink water and avoid certain foods until you feel better. If they persist, then seek medical attention. “Also, do not buy a lot of food if you do not have adequate storage. Check expiration dates and adhere to the cold chain from the point of purchase,” Mnguni adds.
Using the clean-as-you-go- approach
Chef Anele Jili from Osizweni in KwaZulu-Natal unpacks that to ensure food safety during this busy season, she makes sure to work in a clean environment at all times and uses the clean-as-you-go technique with her team to avoid cross-contamination.
“During the festive season, people tend to store different types of food in the same place. People make this mistake because they don’t have enough space in their fridge, and this must be avoided. We must separate the food differentially in different drawers,” she says.
Leftovers are common during festive season gatherings, and unsafe handling and storage of these can further lead to food poisoning or other unsafe food hygiene issues. Thus, Jili recommends covering leftovers, wrapping them in airtight packaging, or sealing them in storage containers.
“These practices help keep bacteria out, retain moisture, and prevent leftovers from picking up odours from other food in the refrigerator. Immediately refrigerate or freeze the wrapped leftovers for rapid cooling. People should be safe during the holidays and watch what they eat; check everything expiry dates and all.”
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