Preparing and storing food safely

Food-borne illnesses are caused by contaminated foods. Contaminants include pathogens, environmental contaminants and adulterants. Food poisoning generally occurs when pathogenic micro-organisms multiply to harmful levels as a result of incorrect handling of food, particularly when temperature control is inadequate. Correct handling of food during all stages of its preparation and storage is essential in reducing the risk of contamination and disease.
Preparing and storing food safely
Most healthy people recover quickly from food poisoning but some people can be seriously ill. Those more at risk include those with a weakened immune system, as well as pregnant women, infants and older people.

The following are examples of foods that are normally considered higher risk because pathogenic bacteria can be present and grow if not stored and prepared safely:
  • Raw and cooked meat and poultry or foods containing raw or cooked meat and poultry.
  • Dairy products and foods containing dairy products such as cream.
  • Seafood and foods containing seafood.
  • Cooked rice and pasta.
  • Processed fruit and vegetables such as salads.
  • Processed foods containing eggs or other protein-rich ingredients
  • Foods that contain any of the foods above, for example, sandwiches.

The use of date marking provides a useful guide on the shelf life of a food item in terms of quality and safety.  The term ‘best-before’ indicates the length of time a food should keep before it begins to deteriorate while  ‘use-by’ indicates how long a food can be expected to remain safe provided it has been stored according to  any stated storage conditions and the package is unopened.
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