Over a decade ago I ran an agency that provided Dining Programs and Meals on Wheels to local seniors and people with disabilities. It was a job that required not only a lot of amazing volunteers, but also some pretty stringent guidelines around food safety and maintaining a clean kitchen. As the program coordinator, I was required to take a course on food safety and perform regular inspections of our kitchen and cooking equipment. I am proud to say that we maintained an excellent standard of cleanliness while I was in that position. I am also glad I did this, because the lessons I learned have stuck with me in my home life and possibly prevented some foodborne illnesses in my own home.
In order for you to have the same degree of safety in your home, here are some important facts that you should know. All of the facts and information below were gathered through various studies and reports conducted and compiled by the Hygiene Council. For more information, visit: http://www.hygienecouncil.org/.
- Your kitchen sink contains 100,000 times more germs than a bathroom or lavatory.
- 9 of 10 kitchen cloths have unsatisfactory or worse levels of bacteria.
- 52% of kitchen taps found to be contaminated with harmful bacteria like Ecoli.
- 50-80% of food-borne illnesses happen in the home.
- Poor hygiene and food preparation can cause up to 90% of kitchen surfaces to be contaminated during the preparation of a meal.
- Only 10% of people think that the kitchen tap poses the greatest infection risk to them or their child, yet the Hygiene Council found 52% of kitchen taps tested were found to be contaminated with harmful bacteria like E.coli.
- Bacteria can survive on surfaces for long periods of time. They can then be transferred to other surfaces (including the hands) in sufficient numbers to represent an infection risk.
- Disinfectants are more effective than detergents in reducing germs on floors.
- High chairs or places where children eat have worse levels of bacteria than toilet flushes.
- Use disposable cloths or soak reusable ones in disinfectant overnight to clean them.
- Store food in the fridge at 5°C, don’t overfill and make sure cold air can circulate.
- Disinfect the inside of your fridge regularly to remove microbes where food has dripped.
- Foot-operated bins are more hygienic because they reduce the risk of hands picking up germs touching the bin lid.
- Try using a quality antibacterial product that’s safe to use on food areas to remove harmful bacteria and viruses from your chopping board.
- Use different knives and boards for meat and vegetables to prevent cross-contamination.
- Soak, scrape, brush, scald, or wash all fruit, salad and vegetables.
- Always cook all meat products thoroughly at 70°C.
- Don’t leave cooked food sitting at room temperature for longer than two hours.
- Remember to reheat at (at 70°C or above) and re-serve leftovers only once.
Some of the facts above are pretty disturbing, so it is important to take precautions and follow the tips provided. During the holidays, I like to make treats to give to my family. I certainly wouldn’t want them to get sick because of something I made, so I use Lysol disinfecting wipes for all of my cooking and food prep surfaces, and I make sure to wash my hands frequently while doing any food preparation. Meat thermometers are a great tool for ensuring your meet is thoroughly cooked, and I keep a thermometer in the fridge as well, just to make sure everything is in working condition.
Here is a recipe for one of the treats I made this year…
- 2lbs icing sugar
- 1 package of cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup cold butter
- 1/4 tsp peppermint extract
- 1 cup icing sugar
- Food colouring as desired
- Using an electric mixer, combine the first three ingredients. Be sure to put a clean dish towel over the bowl to keep icing sugar powder from flying everywhere.
- Cut the butter into cubes and add it and the remaining icing sugar to the mixture.
- Continue to mix until it is smooth.
- If the mixture is sticky to the touch, add icing sugar (2 tbsps at a time) and mix until it is no longer sticky.
- Divide the batter up and add food colouring to make the colour of mints you choose.
- Choose your mint style:
- You can roll tiny balls of dough and push it down with a fork, OR;
- Roll the dough into long tubes and cut it into 1 inch pieces, OR;
- Use an icing bag to drop dough onto parchment paper.
- Place the mints separately on parchment paper in the fridge for 2 hours before storing in a container in the fridge.
The mints were very strong the first two days, but after sitting in the fridge for a couple of days they settled into a smooth and pleasant tasting mint.
I hope you had a safe and healthy holiday season!
“Disclosure: I am part of the Lysol® Healthy Families Ambassador Program by Mom Central. I received compensation as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.”