There are probably three ways a person can die from food. First the food is poisoned by Cesare Borgia or his modern day equivalent. Second the food is tainted so as to cause illness or even death. And third overindulgence – a fate one often finds in Monarchs, People of Power, and people of means.
One can safeguard against the first by having a food taster or having your mother cook your meals – an urban legend during the time of Ferdinand Marcos. And you can protect yourself from the third with temperence or self-restraint. While the second one would require one to develop a set of three habits. Something I recently relearned at a talk hosted by the United States Department of Agriculture on food safely.
It was demonstrated that there was a difference between thawing food at room temperature and on a chiller. I had seen this in my family whenever we cooked turkey. It was always placed inside a chiller to thaw. This was of course so that the turkey would not be contaminated with bacteria. The food used for the demonstration was beef: steaks and proper thawing actually conserved the amount of blood it had. The loss of blood in the steak was great and affected its taste and tenderness. One had a hearty and safe steak to eat.
It was of course a sort of lead up to the topic food safety. And amids the facts, reminders and data given to us we were reminded that food safety involved three key things.
FIRST, KEEPING THINGS CLEAN
Hands should be clean at all times. Hands should be washed with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. Hands should be cleaned after handling food; after using the bathroom; after handling pets; and almost after every activity. So Mother was correct when she reminded us to wash our hands.
Wash cutting board, dishes, utensils and countertops after each use. Soaps and chlorine baths can be used to clean.
Speaking of clean. The rule is clean as you go whether dealing with one’s hands, utensils or area.
SECOND, KEEP WARM FOOD WARM AND KEEP COLD FOOD COLD
Refrigerate promptly and properly. Cooked food must be stored above raw food with raw chicken always placed at the bottom.
Cook to safe temperature ie high enough to kill the harmful bacteria.In other words it is safe to cook well done. Specially for chicken. There is no such thing as medium rare or rare cooked chicken.
THIRD, SEPARATE AND DO NOT CROSS-CONTAMINATE
Use different chopping boards, plate and other utensils for each food.
Use different hands for each food as you cook.
Clean as you go.
EATING AND STAYING ALIVE
Whether one is a gourmet or a gourmand or a foodie it is always important to eat safe food. Now overindulgence and a person armed with malice and cyanide … well those are different thing altogether.