Did you know that eating food covered in bacteria can make you sick? Join us and learn how can food handlers reduce bacteria to safe levels.
Can food handlers reduce bacteria to safe levels? If the food itself is covered in dangerous bacteria, it can make you very sick. Food handlers must know what they’re doing and take the proper measures to prevent sick people from getting food poisoning. Through washing vegetables, proper storage of vegetables, and regularly cleaning the work surfaces in your kitchen, you can safely enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables. 48 million people get sick each year from consuming contaminated food with harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, or toxins. We’ll teach you about the three types of hazards that make food unsafe are, and how can food handlers reduce bacteria to safe levels.
What are bacteria?
Bacteria are tiny, single-celled organisms that live in the body. They can be harmful, such as when they cause infection, or beneficial, as in the process of fermentation (such as in wine) and that of decomposition.
Bacteria can be classified as gram-positive or gram-negative. These are two types of bacteria that stain differently under a microscope due to differences in their cell walls. Gram-positive bacteria have a thick cell wall made of many layers of peptidoglycan (a carbohydrate and protein molecule). Gram-negative bacteria have only a thin layer of peptidoglycan surrounded by an outer membrane. This outer membrane makes gram-negative bacteria more resistant to certain antibiotics than gram-positive bacteria.
Some bacteria are beneficial to the body, while others can cause disease. Bacteria can also live on inanimate objects, like food, but not in water.
How can food handlers reduce bacteria to a safe level in the kitchen?
Food handlers can reduce bacteria to safe levels by following certain steps.
- Wash hands thoroughly before preparing uncooked food and handling raw and cooked food.
- Store food in the refrigerator at 4 C or below.
- Prepare uncooked meats and poultry separate from cooked foods, preferably on a separate cutting board.
- Shower utensils and equipment thoroughly after using them to prepare raw meat, poultry, or fish and before using them for cooked or ready-to-eat foods. Wash hands thoroughly before preparing uncooked food and handling raw and cooked food.
- Wash raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly with clean water before preparing or eating them. Avoid cross-contamination by washing hands, utensils, equipment, countertops, and cutting boards after handling raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs to prevent their juices from spreading to other foods.
- Cook foods to the safe minimum internal temperatures (measured with a food thermometer).
How to wash vegetables?
Vegetables are grown naturally, sometimes containing worms, insects, or even small stones. Soil microorganisms may also contaminate them. The best way to remove these contaminants is to wash the vegetables before consumption. The following steps can facilitate the removal of bacteria and other contaminations from the surface of fresh fruits and vegetables:
- Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water before peeling or cutting them.
- Scrub firm produce, such as melons or cucumbers, with a clean produce brush.
- Use a knife or vegetable peeler to remove any damaged or bruised areas, which are more likely than healthy tissue to harbor harmful bacteria. Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present on their surface.
How to prepare vegetables for cooking?
Depending on the vegetable, you’ll need to use different techniques to prepare them for cooking properly.
- Wash all produce thoroughly under running water before cutting, peeling, or eating. There’s no need to use soap or a produce wash.
- Use a brush to scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers. Scrubbing helps remove surface dirt and bacteria that might be present.
- Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that might be present on the surface of the food.
- Remove and discard outer leaves of leafy vegetables, such as lettuce and cabbage.
- Remove the stems from leafy greens, such as kale, collard greens, mustard greens, and chard, before washing them. Then chop the leaves into bite-sized pieces and wash them in a large bowl of cold water to remove any dirt or sand clinging to them. Drain the leaves in a colander after washing them and dry using a salad spinner or patting dry with a paper towel (or both).
- Cutaway any bruised or damaged areas on fresh fruits and vegetables before preparing or eating them. These areas are where harmful microorganisms can hide; plus, they make your food less attractive!
How to store vegetables?
Yes, you can store vegetables in the fridge. But, there are some exceptions when it comes to storing vegetables, and it is important to store them in the correct locations and for the correct amount of time.
Not only does your refrigerator have a crisper drawer (or drawers)–which is generally ideal for storing most vegetables–but many refrigerators offer special temperature settings to adjust the level of humidity inside the crisper. This can be especially helpful to store more delicate vegetables like lettuce and leafy greens.
Humidity levels affect how long your produce stays fresh, so use this chart as a guide to set your crisper at the appropriate level for what you’re storing.
Another tip: Make sure not to wash all of your vegetables before storing them; this can make them go bad faster. If you wash your produce before storing it, make sure it’s completely dry before putting it away.
Have clean vegetables and perform the correct preparations before cooking.
Vegetables should be washed carefully and thoroughly before cooking. This is particularly important with leafy vegetables such as lettuce containing soil or sand or with green beans or peas, which may be infested with insects.
Wash vegetables by rinsing them under a stream of cold water, then drain them in a colander. If you’re using a sink, make sure it’s clean before washing the vegetables.
Many vegetables are best peeled before cooking, though some can be cooked with their skins. Some vegetables, such as potatoes and beets, are more easily peeled after being boiled for a few minutes.
Cutting the vegetable into pieces before boiling will shorten the cooking time. The smaller the pieces, the faster they will cook.
Some vegetables are better parboiled (cooked briefly in boiling salted water) before being finished off in another way; this technique makes them more digestible while also reducing cooking time and preserving their color and flavor to a greater extent than if they are cooked in one piece.