Have you managed to stick to that 2019 New Year resolution of cooking at home more and eating out less? Or are you anticipating increased time in the kitchen this week as Easter approaches and guests are on their way?
Regardless of why your cooking activity may have increased recently, it’s important to keep in mind that there can be many dangers lurking in the kitchen, with some being more unexpected than others. Some of the troublemakers can cause a few days of digestive upset but others can be deadly, especially to young children and to those with compromised immune systems. You certainly don’t want any upsets after an enjoyable Easter lunch!
Read on to find out what could be making you sick in your kitchen, and learn some hints and tips on how to manage food and safety hygiene in a natural way.
As much as cooking from scratch is a wonderful thing, a few simple rules must be followed to ensure that your food handling is done safely. If food is not cooked and handled safely, bacteria can multiply rapidly. You definitely don’t want to compromise the health of little ones or those with weakened immune systems by giving anyone food poisoning; let alone making yourself sick!
When handling food beware of…
- Under Cooking Foods _ Cook foods through to their respective appropriate temperatures to kill bacteria.
- Leaving Left Overs at the Wrong Temperature _ Keep hot foods above 60C and cold foods below 4C to prevent bacteria, yeast and mould forming. Never leave foods to marinate or defrost for long periods outside the fridge.
- Using Unwashed Produce _ Washing helps remove bacteria and pesticides.
- Rinsing Off Raw Meat _ Doing so in the sink simply spreads bacteria. Cooking thoroughly will kill any potentially harmful germs.
- Cross-Contamination Between Raw & Cooked Foods _ Always use separate cutting boards for raw meats and fresh vegetables. Store raw meats and fish well sealed and separate from other fresh or cooked produce. Never return cooked meat or fish back onto the dish it was on prior to cooking/when marinating.
- Skipping Hand Washing _ Wash your hands as you move through your food prep, especially between meat, eggs and fresh produce.
Food That Has Gone Bad
We all have food that ends up lingering in the fridge or store cupboard longer than it should. If you aren’t sure whether a food is still safe to consume, don’t eat it. Remember that not all harmful bacteria can be seen, smelled or tasted; so if in doubt, throw it out!
Trusty tea towels are a staple in every kitchen, but if not washed often enough they can harbour some pretty nasty germs, including Salmonella or E.coli. To reduce the risk use separate tea towels for drying hands, food preparation and cleaning. Allow them to dry out fully after each use and hot wash regularly.
Committing to a chemical free house in 2019?
There are many natural cleaning products that can help you stick to this resolution without compromising on cleanliness. Bosistos’ Sensitive Laundry Powder harnesses the antibacterial power of Eucalyptus Oil making it both tough on stains as well as gentle on the environment and skin.
These guys get around, being used on anything from veggies through to fish. Handy as this may be, it also means that the blade of your can opener is a magnet for the cross-contamination of bacteria. Wash manual can openers in hot, soapy water after each use. If you use an electric one, wipe clean after each use with your choice of disinfectant and dry thoroughly.
Looking for a powerful disinfectant that is chemical free?
By choosing a product that contains pharmaceutical-grade eucalyptus oil you can use it for more than just disinfecting utensils and surfaces. Use for cleaning floors and toilets, removing spots, stains, chewing gum, paint and ink marks; and even as an antiseptic, or for colds, flu, aches and pains!
With every use, cutting boards receive little cuts and scratches: places in which bacteria loves to bury itself. This, combined with cross-contamination from not using separate boards for meat, fish and vegetables, means that chopping boards potentially pose a severe health risk.
Plastic or Glass Cutting Boards: Ideally run through the dishwasher if space allows. Alternatively hand wash in hot, soapy water. If your plastic cutting board has seen lots of wear and tear, throw it away and get a new one. Cuts into plastic run deep and therefore will harbour even more bacteria which becomes difficult to remove.
Wooden Cutting Boards: Avoid placing in a dishwasher as this can cause warping of the wood. Instead, wash after every use in hot, soapy water, then dry thoroughly. Ideally, after washing rub over your wooden board with half a fresh lemon before leaving it out in the sunshine to fully dry and kill bacteria. Regularly oiling your wooden board will also help prevent it cracking and splitting.
Reducing the amount of plastic in your home this year?
A wooden cutting board is an easy way to have one less piece of plastic within your home. And for hygiene purposes, as long as you clean your board thoroughly and oil it regularly, you may just find that it is more sanitary than that old plastic chopping board of yours…
Cloths & Sponges
The porous nature of sponges may make them great for cleaning up, but it also makes them particularly susceptible to retaining moisture and bacteria. After use, wash sponges and cloths in hot, soapy water and leave them to thoroughly dry out. You can also run them through the dishwasher or in with your laundry.
If you get even the faintest whiff of a nasty smell on your sponge or cloth after a clean then discard it immediately as this is a sign of substantial bacterial growth.
Handles, Knobs and Touch Pads
As much as we’d like to hope our hands are perfectly clean all the time, this simply isn’t the case. If you then think about how many times in a cooking session, let alone a day, you touch all the various knobs, handles and touch pads within your kitchen it is scary to imagine quite how much potentially harmful bacteria gets left behind on these surfaces.
The solution? At least once a day, if not after every cooking session, clean these surfaces using an antibacterial wipe or disinfectant spray.
Want a powerful disinfectant that doesn’t leave a chemical smell?
This multi-purpose eucalyptus oil spray has a fresh, clean fragrance whilst being a natural antiseptic and effective germ killer.
If you have appliances that use natural or propane gas within your kitchen it is important to keep them in good working condition. A little leak or a malfunctioning pilot light could have disastrous results. Because utility companies add an odour to the gas to help you identify when there is a leak, if you detect a smell of rotten eggs open your windows, switch off your gas appliances and call your gas provider. In cases when the smell is excessively strong, leave the building and call emergency services.
Carbon monoxide can also be emitted by gas stoves and water heaters. Due to its lack of smell it can build up within the home and cause headaches, flu-like symptoms, muscle weakness, and death. The safest way to ensure detection of a leak is to install a carbon monoxide detector.
Plastic Storage Containers
Even if you are trying to phase them out of your life, plastic containers will most likely be used at times in your kitchen. Unfortunately, many older plastic containers contain Bisphenol A (BPA), an industrial chemical which is has been associated with affecting the brain and the behavioural growth of foetuses, infants, and children.
How to limit your exposure to BPA…
- Only Use Plastics Labelled BPA Free _ And check recycle codes as those that are marked 3 or 7 may contain BPA.
- Use Fresh Foods Over Tinned Foods _ Most cans and tins are lined with a resin containing BPA. Some cans are now labelled as being BPA free.
- Avoid Putting Polycarbonate Plastics in the Microwave or Dishwasher _The plastic may break down over time and allow BPA to leach into foods.
Now this may seem a surprising one to feature on the list but the warning shouldn’t be taken lightly. When you open a bag of microwave popcorn straight after heating the smell may be delicious but you will be inhaling over 40 different chemicals. The worst substance is called diacetyl, which many leading brands have now removed from the mix, though we still don’t know enough about the other chemicals.
Err on the side of caution with this snack and let your popcorn bag fully cool down before opening, or do so under an exhaust fan. Better still, make yourself popcorn on the stove or in an air popcorn maker.
Long Life, Reusable Shopping Bags
There is no doubt that using these is better for the environment, just be aware that the risk of cross-contamination may occur if not cleaned regularly. A handy way to prevent this from happening is to label your bags for separate uses, such as cleaning products, raw meat and fish, fresh fruit and vegetables. Avoid leaving dirty bags in a hot car as this will become a breeding ground for bacteria.
Will 2019 be the year you phase plastic bags out of your life?
Then invest in a heavy duty canvas tote bag to carry your groceries in. A canvas bag can be easily cleaned by throwing it into the washing machine on a regular basis.
Hopefully the above will have made you think about readjusting some of your health and hygiene habits within the kitchen to keep 2019 a happy and healthy year for everyone you cook and eat with.