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Avoid food contamination in the kitchen

In the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it is comforting to know there is no evidence that handling or consuming food leads to spread of the virus. However, it is always a good idea to take extra precautions when working with food. During the holidays, your organization may be sponsoring special meals or providing food to the needy in your community. Church Mutual has put together a list of best practices for food preparation to help you lower your organization’s risk of food-borne illness.

Wash your hands and clean your preparation area. Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before handling food. Rinse produce to remove any harmful chemicals or bacteria, and wash kitchen surfaces with soap and water before placing food on them. Make sure you thoroughly rinse and dry all surfaces after washing to remove any traces of soap.

Separate foods to avoid cross-contamination. According to Food Allergy Research and Education, every three minutes a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room. Use separate cutting boards and utensils for each different food type. Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from other food. 

Cook foods to a safe temperature. Undercooked meat can lead to salmonella, E. coli, norovirus and listeria. Always check temperatures with a meat thermometer to ensure the meat is cooked all the way through. Use this minimum cooking temperatures guide to ensure the meat you serve is safe to eat.

Avoid the food temperature danger zone. Bacteria grow most rapidly when food is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, doubling in as little as 20 minutes. To avoid bacteria growth, never leave cold foods out of refrigeration for more than two hours, and warm and stir hot food at regular intervals. 

Store food safely. Always wrap meat securely to keep bacteria away and to prevent juices from leaking onto other food. Your refrigerator should be set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, and your freezer should be set at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Cook or freeze fresh poultry, fish and ground meats within two days, and other beef, veal, lamb or pork within three to five days.

When you follow the above guidelines, you can significantly decrease your risk of causing illness. But if something bad does occur, you need the right insurance to protect your organization. Visit Church Mutual to learn how you can prepare for any situation.