Focus on food safety
As food lovers who hate waste, we are careful and considerate in our preparation of food as proper planning and portioning ensures we don’t prepare too much and create waste. Similarly, we must be equally aware of the handling necessary to ensure food bugs do not have a chance of being spread and causing harm.
When preparing food, keep raw meat separate from ready-to-eat food: store raw meat and poultry in sealed containers at the bottom of the fridge, to avoid dripping onto other food. Ideally it’s better to have separate chopping boards and knives for raw meat and ready-to-eat foods. However, never use the same chopping board for raw meat and ready-to-eat food without thoroughly washing the board (and knife) in between.
Don’t wash meat before cooking it. Washing doesn’t get rid of harmful germs – only proper cooking will. You only run the risk of splashing germs onto worktops and utensils.
A keen food waste reducer’s best tool is their freezer. When frozen meat and fish (and some other foods) thaw, lots of liquid can come out of them. If you’re defrosting raw meat or fish, this liquid will spread bacteria to any food, plates or surfaces that it touches. Keep the meat and fish in a sealed container at the bottom of the fridge, so that it can’t touch or drip onto other foods.
Always clean plates, utensils, surfaces and hands thoroughly, after they have touched raw or thawing meat, to stop bacteria from spreading.
If you defrost raw meat or fish and then cook it thoroughly, you can freeze it again, but remember never reheat foods more than once.
Proper cooking kills food poisoning bacteria. It’s important to make sure poultry, pork, burgers and sausages are cooked all the way through. To check that these meats are cooked properly, when you cut into the deepest part there should be no pinkness left and any juices should run clear, with no red traces. Some meat, such as steaks and joints of beef or lamb, can be served rare as long as the outside has been properly cooked or ‘sealed’. It is important to seal meat to kill any bacteria that might be on the outside.
Finally, food labels can be very confusing with all their different terms but the important ones to look out for are ‘use by’ and ‘best before’.
Use by is the key date to look out for in terms of food safety. Use by dates appear on foods that go off quickly like dairy products or meat and fish. You shouldn’t eat food after the end of this date even if it looks and smells fine, as it may put your health at risk.
Best before dates relate to food quality rather than safety. It is safe to eat food after this date; however food may no longer be at its best in terms of taste and texture. The exception to this rule is eggs, which should never be eaten after their ‘best before’ date.
By avoiding cross-contamination, cooking food thoroughly and understanding food labels, we can ensure that while we strive to reduce our food waste, we can prepare safe food and protect ourselves and our families from food poisoning.
Test your basic food hygiene knowledge and stay safe while reducing your food waste.
1. True or false: you can reheat leftovers as many times as you like.
- Minced meat
- It’s hot on the outside
- It’s not pink
- The juices run clear
- After the time stated on the instructions
- It’s golden brown
- It’s steaming hot all the way through