The Food Standards Agency estimates the number of food poisoning cases in the UK to be around five million people each year. Food poisoning varies from mild stomachache to extremely severe illness requiring hospital treatment. Young children and babies are most at risk from food poisoning because it doesn’t take much for them to lose a high percentage of body fluid and become dehydrated.
Food poisoning in the home can be kept at bay with stringent food hygiene practices. Many busy mums prepare food in advance, and often raise questions concerning the safety of cooling, storing and heating ready prepared meals. This article will address some of those questions and future articles will deal with raw food preparation and hygiene.
The strains of a demanding family/work life can be alleviated by time-saving practices, and making food in advance for youngsters eating early or older late arrivals is commonplace. Below are some useful points to consider:
- Divide food into smaller portions.
- Place in well-sealed containers and run under cold water.
- Place in a well-sealed container and stand it in a shallow tray of cold water.
Once the meals are prepared and stored safely away in the fridge or freezer, what is the safest way to heat them through? Some useful pointers:
- Cook the food until it is piping hot, don’t be tempted to warm food partially. To protect little mouths from burning, wait until the food is at a comfortable eating temperature, before giving it to children.
- Check food is hot all the way through by testing with a skewer or knife.
- Stir food when heating, whether in a Microwave or on a hob, to ensure the heat has been evenly distributed.
- Never reheat food more than once.
- Tempting though it is to reheat a child’s unfinished meal, don’t. It has been in contact with skin and saliva and may have been on the plate long enough for bacteria to develop.
- Ensure frozen foods are thawed before heating, unless instructions state otherwise, but don’t leave them at room temperature for too long.
- Eat hot food while it’s hot. Don’t heat it too far in advance of the meal; if it needs to be left ‘briefly’, then ensure it is stored at a temperature higher than 63°C.
It’s also important to answer some questions relating to the storage of our prepared food: