Food safety at home: how to clean and cook without cross contamination to avoid Listeria (and other poisonings)

Our diet should not only be healthy, it must also be safe, in all links of the chain. Although episodes such as the recent crisis caused by the Listeria outbreak can generate insecurity, as consumers we can rely on the effectiveness of traceability and control systems in the industry. But when you get home The responsability It happens to ourselves.

A large part of food poisoning, known as toxiinfections, they occur in homes, and most could easily be avoided by following some basic hygiene, cleaning and food handling guidelines. We don't have to become obsessed or want to become alarmist, but some carelessness or mistakes can have serious consequences, due to ignorance or pure neglect.

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Perhaps we have relied too much on that "nothing ever happens." We are not aware of how much we have advanced both at the industry level and in health matters compared to previous decades. Even our kitchens are much safer, with constant access to clean drinking water and energy sources, with appliances that make cooking easier and safer.

Faced with the risk of serious health alerts such as listeriosis, we can only rely on the effectiveness of the authorities' action protocols, but at home we must assume our role as ultimately responsible of what we eat How to avoid cross contamination? How to clean the fridge? Are all foods washed?

Then we review the key points that will help us maintain that food security in the home. Because, as the subject matter expert Gemma del Caño says, at home is in our hand.

Cleaning and maintenance of the refrigerator (and the entire kitchen)

It is the appliance that works 24 hours a day, every day of the year, and often the one we neglect most. If the fridge is in charge of preserving our food, it must also be part of our routine cleaning.

In addition to basic maintenance - keep it tidy, do not overload it, monitor that it works correctly ... -, you have to control small oversights and stains that occur frequently when moving food. Splashes of liquids, drops of fat, traces of sauces or dairy, leaves of vegetables ... stain our refrigerator almost every day, and you have to clean them quickly so that they do not accumulate for days.

The inside of the refrigerator must be thoroughly cleaned periodically

It is also convenient to clean it more thoroughly once every 15 days, or weekly if there is a lot of trouble at home. The easiest is to take advantage before making a large purchase to make it more empty. For this we can use a specific cleaner for the interior of refrigerators, and not bleach, which could spoil internal materials. An old trick is to use baking soda with water and / or lemon or vinegar, although commercial cleaning products designed for this purpose are simpler and more reliable to use.

Must remove each shelf and clean and dry the joints well and recesses, ensuring that there are no traces of food or moisture. The fruit and vegetable drawers deserve daily attention in case any piece breaks down early, or if they are flooded with traces of water. The eraser The door must also be cleaned, using for example an ear stick.

Every two or three months we can already perform a much more thorough cleaning, completely emptying the device, unplugging it and cleaning also the freezer to prevent the accumulation of ice or frost. It should also clean below and behind.

Of course, in addition to the refrigerator it is necessary thoroughly clean the rest of our kitchen. Worktops and work surfaces, tables, appliances and floor, in addition to utensils, must be well cleaned. It is best to do it after finishing cooking or eating, without letting the dirt accumulate, and devoting at least one day a week to do a more thorough cleaning.

The interior of the drawers and cabinets can be Aspire regularly with a narrow nozzle attachment of the vacuum cleaner, to collect traces of flour, lost cereals, dust or any tiny particle that always escapes with the daily trajín.

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In addition to cleaning you have to dry everything well, especially the fridge. For this purpose, disposable paper or absorbent rags that leave no threads or lint, washed without softener, and that are completely clean should be used.

Wash the dishes well (and the sink)

It seems drawer, but it is worth remembering. To accumulate dishes, cutlery and other dirty dishes on the countertop or in the sink is to offer an ideal nest for insects, microbes and bacteria. If we don't have a dishwasher -or we don't have everything-, the best routine is washing dishes sooner.

Here we have a complete guide with very useful tips to do it in the most efficient, fast and environmentally friendly way. The fundamental thing is to remember the importance of not letting the remains of food dry out, of using hot water and of drying hands. And of course, the sink too It scrubs.

Review labels and control stored foods

Due to carelessness or misunderstanding, we all end up with food from the fridge or pantry. That's why you have to get used to regularly review all products, checking the expiration date but also paying attention to preferential consumption, so as not to waste food unnecessarily.

But when there are doubts about the good state of any food -because it smells weird, it has gone out of date or has mold, for example-, Prevention is better than cure. It is silly to risk one's health for not throwing that piece of cheese or that cold meat that has been in the fridge for too long. In the presence of mold -except in the natural ones that the cheese can carry-, it is convenient to discard all the food and not to cut or remove only the affected part; We will also check that other nearby foods have not been contaminated.

Food can spoil too soon: you have to check and discard

Sometimes food spoils without the expiration date. It can occur due to damage to the packaging, because the cold chain has been broken or because, being fresh products, they can come home with blows or with the presence of microorganisms. Checking the fruit and vegetable drawer we will prevent a piece in bad condition from contaminating the others and to the fridge or basket itself.

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Canned canned boats can be botulism causing. In addition to the special care we must have with our homemade preparations, we must not lose sight of the appearance of commercials. Before a boat, or jar that has bulging, rust, breakage, bad odors or if the lid has lost the empty effect, it is best to discard it.

How to properly preserve food: keep the right cold

Cooked dishes and refrigerated foods require cold preservation, that is, in the refrigerator. It is recommended to keep the temperature of the refrigerator below 5º C, lower if we are in summer and it is very hot. Avoid opening the door frequently and never do it wide to keep the chain cold and avoid thermal shock.

Vacuum packaging guarantees better preservation and makes it easy to isolate raw foods.

Prepared dishes and leftovers should be refrigerate as soon as possible. To do this we will try to cool them more quickly, passing them to cold containers or placing them on ice, as it is not recommended to introduce hot food to the refrigerator. You should always use clean, tightly sealed containers, tuppers and lunch boxes, in good condition.

Never leave leftovers of food at room temperature for more than two hours

We can organize the fridge according to temperature levels. Most manufacturers give directions and advice to make efficient use of each model; Here we have a basic guide to place each food. The most perishable foods should always be in the coldest zone, and reserve the door for less fragile products such as drinks or sauces.

We must try keep raw and cooked raw, and do not accumulate leftovers for too many days, being advisable to consume everything before four days. Using vacuum preservation we will extend the shelf life of ingredients and cooked dishes, but it is also practical to use the freezer. Defrosting should be done slowly in the refrigerator or use the specific functions of the oven or microwave.

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Foods that must be washed (and those that are not)

Should we disinfect or wash the fruit and vegetables with bleach? As they indicate from #SaludsinBulos in the 'I Guide of the bulos in feeding', it is not necessary. To clean any dust, dirt or dirt they may have, it should be enough to wash them under tap water, gently, rubbing each sheet or piece well.

Raw chicken should never be washed and extreme precautions must be taken when handling it to avoid cross contamination.

If the product comes directly from the field, being able to have more traces of dirt, dust or treatment products - which are also used in organic farming - to be safer, we can add a teaspoon of bleach suitable for disinfecting drinking water in 3 liters of water, leave 5 minutes and rinse. There are also specific disinfection products for fruits and vegetables on the market.

Green leaves and other bagged vegetables, style mezclum, ready for consumption do not need washing, if indicated in package. The thing to avoid is that accumulate moisture, go out of date or be exposed to the outside for too long.

Moisture is the great enemy of the most delicate plants and fruits. Fresh aromatic herbs should always be washed very well, gently, but just before consuming them, and drying them thoroughly with disposable kitchen paper. The same is recommended with berries, berries, figs or the like.

Raw meat, especially poultry such as chicken, can often harbor bacteria and other pathogens in amounts that are usually insignificant, but could quickly spread to other foods. Therefore you should never wash, even under the tap, before cooking. At most, dry them with paper towels to remove excess moisture.

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Fish should not be washed at home for the same reason. The best is buy it clean or ready properly fishmongers, unless we work with small specimens that we eviscerate at home, such as anchovies or sardines. Remember that anisakis is not avoided by washing it, but by freezing or cooking. The mollusks must be washed well to remove the dirt and other impurities, leaving them to soak for a few hours in water.

The eggs should never be washed under the tap except at the moment in which we are going to use them, in case the shell contains traces of dirt or a feather. It is preferable to break them into separate containers and not use the shells themselves to divide yolks and whites.

Rinsing the quinoa we remove the saponins, a natural bitter compound.

The raw rice It is almost always advisable to wash it to remove part of the starch and possible impurities, although it depends a little on the recipe we want to prepare. Other dried whole grain cereals, such as barley or rye grain, it is also advisable to wash them well with tap water.

The dried vegetables we can rinse them before letting them soak in the necessary time in each case, and Quinoa should always be rinsed to eliminate the saponins that it contains naturally, although some manufacturers already remove it at the factory. Nuts and seeds do not need to be washed, unless the package indicates otherwise.

Cook food correctly, ensuring a minimum temperature

The vast majority of microorganisms and bacteria die when they reach an adequate temperature for sufficient time. The Listeria monocytogenes, for example, does not resist more than 45º C, and also the anisakis dies when we subject all the whole fish to a temperature above 60º C for at least one minute. That's why it's important to cook raw foods by heating them properly, reaching a minimum of 70º C, better 75º C, including the center.

The key point of cooking temperature is always in the inner center.

We can make sure that this temperature is reached using a kitchen thermometer, especially with very large foods such as a whole chicken, although using usual household techniques there should be no problem. The iron, the roast or the frying are safe procedures, checking, yes, that the interior has not been raw. Soups, creams and stews should come to a boil and keep it for a minute, also when reheating.

Avoid cross contamination between raw and cooked: watch out for tables and utensils

Separating work areas, utensils and tools that come into contact with different foods is essential to prevent bacteria from transferring from one to another. It is what is known as cross contamination, something basic also to prevent allergic reactions or intolerances.

Always keep raw and cooked food separate, also the utensils used for each.

You have to be especially careful when handle raw and cooked food, separating meat, fish and vegetables. If we are going to cook with meat, we will always treat it on a specific table for her, with a concrete knife, and we will cook it in a clean pan or casserole. You should never reuse these utensils to continue preparing another food without washing and drying them first.

To avoid any risk, it is best to have at least two or three good quality kitchen tables for raw foods and cooked foods, and never mix them. In any case, after each use - although we are preparing the same recipe - you have to wash and dry thoroughly each tool before continuing, with water and dishwashing detergent.

This is also washed: wipes, scourers, aprons and reusable bags

With them we clean, but you also have to wash them. They accumulate dirt and high humidity that can become a focus of bacteria and microorganisms. To avoid it, it is convenient to wash the cloths and rags in a washing machine at least once a week, and disinfect scourers and sponges with bleach or, directly, renew them. If biofilm has emerged, you should always throw it away quickly.

Others cloth utensils for food useAs aprons, tablecloths, napkins and mittens, you also have to undergo a regular washing machine cycle, and if we iron them later even better. Let's not forget that reusable shopping bags also get very dirty; those of cloth, to the washing machine; the others, with disinfectant cleaners.

The trick of using the microwave to disinfect the scourer or sponge Cooking is not very clear that it really ends all microorganisms. If it is very damaged and dirty, it is better to heal in health and replace it with a new one.

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Don't forget hand hygiene: you have to wash them often and well

Our hands come into contact with a multitude of objects, surfaces, environments, animals and people, directly or indirectly. Proper hygiene is essential to avoid cross contamination, infections and other health problems, that is why we must think of them as the great tool for working in the kitchen.

Not only do you have to wash them well before cooking; the process must be repeated Consciously after handling raw food, touching objects that may be dirty or contaminated with microorganisms, our hair or the mobile screen. Here we remember the detailed steps recommended by the UN to ensure complete hygiene. Clean water and running hand soap They are all we need.

If we are very concerned about hand hygiene and do not want to be constantly washing, we can use a disinfectant without rinsing, which is also very practical to take away from home. And we all would have to banish the typical cloth that hangs in the kitchens as a dryer of hands, fruits or dishes, accumulating moisture and dirt for days. Clean hands are best dried on clean towels, or with disposable paper.

Photos | iStock

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