Apply The Four C’s Of Food Hygiene To Your Kitchen
Hygiene is a vitally important thing; without it, you could have the best and most luxurious kitchen in the world and still succumb to food poisoning or worse, death, due to a certain carelessness, negligent attitude to food hygiene. Here is an easy-to-remember acronym (the 4 C’s), together with some important information about what they are and why they are so important.
1. What are the 4 C’s of food safety?
Cleaning is the basic starting point for all food hygiene. You should never start to cook or end your cooking (especially slow cooking) without making sure that everything has recently been cleaned, from floor to counters to cutlery to various pots and pans. This is doubly important if you are handling raw meat or fish, but is still important even if you are not. A good disinfectant is your best friend in this regard. Ensure that it has one of these codes somewhere on it: BS EN 1276 or BS EN 13697. Cleaning products will have instructions on them; follow them scrupulously. Some will need to be diluted, while others shouldn’t stay on a surface for too long, or should never come into contact with skin, let alone stomachs!
Harmful bacteria can be a killer, so meat should be cooked thoroughly; in particular poultry (turkey, chicken), duck, pork, and anything made from minced meat. Make doubly sure that your cooked meat is piping hot all the way through. Instant thermometers are cheap and useful and can be stuck into the core of the meat to clarify that it is at least 160°F. Check to see that meat juices run clear and that there is no pink or red looking meat in the middle of the cut. Whether you are using an indoor grill or conventional oven this is equally important. In the case of steaks or larger cuts of meat, check that the surface of the meat is sealed and properly cooked because this is where the harmful bacteria is most likely to be lurking.
Chilling food is just as important as cooking it properly. Modern refrigerators and fridge organizers are useful in helping you to do this. For example, food with an approaching use-by date can be placed in a certain part of your refrigerator, using a fridge organizer to help you. Cooked dishes can go in another part. Pre-prepared, store-bought desserts and salads can go more deeply into the belly of the fridge. Above all, ensure that your food is never left at the mercy of room temperature. When taking food out to prepare a dish, keep it out of your fridge for the shortest possible amount of time. You can actually have food out of the fridge, to display or to serve, for as many as 4 hours. Anything longer than this should end in you trashing it. It’s best not to get to that point, but if it’s a choice between wasting food or getting food poisoning, choose the former.
Cross-contamination can occur when raw food makes contact with cooked food. It can be transferred from via cooking implements like spatulas, knives, or spoons. Hands are another source of cross-contamination, so make sure all work surfaces, implements, and hands are disinfected or washed with liquid detergent (using hot water). Ensure that raw meat or fish is tightly sealed within your refrigerator. Raw food should be kept as low as possible within your fridge, so there’s no risk of it dripping onto other foods.
2. Why are the 4 C’s important?
In a phrase – food poisoning. It is a horrible thing to experience and can take significant time to recover from. The common signs are from this list of usual suspects:
- Bloody or watery diarrhea
- Abdominal cramps and pain
One or more of these symptoms might be experienced within a relatively short amount of time, ie. hours rather than days, although in some cases it might take longer. The usual recovery time is up to a week, but gastroenteritis can last much longer, while salmonellosis can kill you or lead to symptoms that affect more than just your intestines! There are some (thankfully rare) strains of salmonella bacteria that can lead to typhoid fever; this is more often found in developing countries but is still a real threat and a huge reason why the 4 C’s can save your life.
If you experience any of these more extreme symptoms of food poisoning, seek medical advice immediately:
- Bloody stool or vomit
- Severe discomfort or abdominal cramps
- A temperature in excess of 100.4°F
- Diarrhea which goes on for days (more than 3)
- Blurred vision, weakness of muscle power, a tingling sensation in your arms
- Excessive thirst,
- Problems urinating
- Dry mouth
Hopefully, these things will scare you into taking the 4 C’s even more seriously than you’ve hitherto been doing. It’s worth it.