If you’ve ever worked in or known someone who works in food service – whether it be a restaurant, school or bar – you’ve probably heard of a health inspector. Heck, there’s even an episode of SpongeBob that talks about the health inspector!
What does a health inspector do?
A health inspector checks places where food is served – like a restaurant – to make sure that the food safety rules are followed. The World Health Organization lists five principles that are key to maintaining food safety, which are:
- Prevent contaminating food with pathogens that are spread from people, pets and pests
- Keep raw and cooked food separate to prevent contamination of the cooked foods
- Cook foods for the right amount of time and at the right temperature to kill pathogens
- Store food at the right temperature
- Use safe water and raw materials
How can you be sure your home kitchen is following these principles?
Here are some quick and easy tips to start getting your kitchen up to the standards of a health inspector:
Keep it Clean
- Always wash your hands before working with food. If you’re cooking with your kids, make sure they are washing their hands too. Use hot soapy water and make sure you are scrubbing for at least 20 seconds – for kids, have them sing the “Happy Birthday” song or the alphabet. When the song is over, they can rinse. Make sure you are washing your hands well – in between fingers, underneath nails, above the wrist, etc. Remove any rings prior to washing and cooking too! Make sure you always wash and wash well after handling raw poultry!
- Keep pets and pests out of the kitchen. They can spread contamination like nobody else!
- Wash all your produce, even ones with rinds that you don’t eat. It’s best if you use a brush to scrub them to get pesticide residue off your foods. Always cut away bruised or damaged spots too!
- Disinfect sponges at least once a week – either in the microwave for 1 minute or in the dishwasher for a cycle. If you use them to clean up after raw meat or poultry, disinfect immediately.
- Wash cups and utensils first with hot, soapy water. Rinse in clean hot water. Utensils can also be sanitized using boiling water or a commercial sanitizer. Dishes are best air dried or washed in the dishwasher.
Keep it Cold
- Make sure your refrigerator temperature stays between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit.Your food should be 41 degrees or less to be safe. Keep a thermometer in your fridge to make sure it’s staying cool enough.
- Only thaw foods in the fridge or under cold running water. Never thaw food on the counter. You can use the defrost function on the microwave, but only if you’re going to be ready to cook the food immediately.
- When you have leftovers, put them in the refrigerator immediately. Do not let food sit out before you get it cooled down. If it’s been sitting out for two hours or more, throw it away.
- Use by dates – as long as your food is being kept at 40 degrees or less, you can use uncooked poultry and ground meat generally 2 days after the use by date , steaks and chops for 5 days after the use by date and eggs 5 weeks after the use by date.
Heat It Up Right
- If you don’t have a food thermometer, go get one. Food has to reach a specific internal temperature for at least 15 seconds to kill the pathogens it may be carrying. The best way to tell if it’s hot enough is to measure the temperature. It takes very little time and can help keep everyone healthy!
What temperature should it be?
- Poultry – 165 degrees
- Ground meat – 155 degrees
- Seafood – 145 degrees
- Steak and Chops (pork, beef, veal and lamb) – 145 degrees
- Casseroles and leftovers – 165 degrees
These are some very quick tips – just the tip of the iceberg, really. If you get started here, you can get your kitchen started on the path toward safety. There’s more to be done, but following these easy steps will be a great beginning! Look for more in this series soon!
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