Welcome to Week 2 of National Food Safety Education Month!
Last week we discussed the topic of cleaning, this week we are going to move onto the 2nd foundational step of food safety - SEPARATE. We are going to discuss which foods should be kept separate and how to store and prepare them separately.
What food should be separated?
Knowing which foods should be store, prepped and cooked separately is very important. Making a mistake on this could result in cross-contamination and possible a foodborne illness.
In general, you should always keep raw meat, poultry and seafood away from any ready to eat foods such as fresh fruits and veggies or baked goods. This applies for all stages - storing, prepping and cooking.
How to store food separately
The best possible option for storing food would involve separate storage areas for raw animal products and ready to eat products. However, depending on the space available, this may not be an option for you.
If these items need to be stored in the same space, it is best to follow this simple rule: STORE FOOD FROM TOP TO BOTTOM BASED ON MINIMUM INTERAL COOKING TEMPERATURE.
Doing this ensures that any potential cross contamination can be corrected during the cooking process.
For example, fresh produce should always be stored on top because it is ready to eat. It requires no further cooking. Raw chicken (minimum internal cooking temp of 165 degrees F) should always be stored below ground beef (minimum internal cooking temp of 155 degrees F). This way, if any juices from the ground beef drip onto the raw chicken, it will be cooked to a temp high enough to kill any harmful bacteria.
How to prepare foods separately
There are a couple different ways to prepare foods separately while avoiding cross contamination. Your establishment may have their specific practices that they require - here are some of the best options. This can involve any washing of produce, cutting, marinating or prepping of any sort prior to cooking or serving.
First, there is the very simple option of prepping different foods at different times. You may already do this anyway. With proper cleaning and sanitizing in between this greatly reduces any chance of cross-contamination. When following this practice, it is best to prep all produce and ready to eat foods FIRST. This way even if there was some cross-contamination from the produce, the food will be cooked to a safe temperature before consumption.
Another option is to use color coded cutting boards for any prep work you may be doing. Yellow for poultry, green for produce, red for red meats. The exact colors assigned may differ from one establishment to the next, but the idea remains the same. Following this practice reduces any cross contamination that can happen from an improperly washed and sanitized cutting board that was used for raw poultry and then for lettuce.
You should also have designated prep areas. Away from the cooking spaces, dishwashing areas or storage areas. This are all common practices that require just a bit of thinking and common sense but can make a world of a difference for your establishment and your customers.
Tip of the Week
When storing different types of food in the cooler, use containers with hard, non-porous lids. This keeps the food inside safe from any cross-contamination. Make sure the lids are easily removed for visibility and access.
Director, Sara Robert's favorite Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Soup