Everyone thought that little Regan MacNeil from The Exorcist was possessed, but what if her spinning head and projectile vomiting was actually from some spoiled deviled eggs? And what if The Night of the Living Dead was, in fact, a result of cross contamination at the ol’ community chili cook-off?
Anyone who’s had food poisoning knows that it can be more terrifying than crazy clowns hiding in the sewers. As much as I love a good scare, let’s leave it to the ghouls and goblins out on Hallowe'en night instead of the harmful bacteria that may be creeping around your kitchen. Follow these tips to prevent harmful bacteria from spreading or growing in your food.
Wash your hands well with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before handling food. Also make sure to wash and sanitize any surfaces, dishes, utensils, pans and cooking equipment before and after you use them. Washing your hands and your cooking tools well will prevent bacteria from spreading around the kitchen.
Stay safe by avoiding cross contamination. Use different cutting boards for your raw and prepared foods. Use one cutting board for meat, fish and eggs, and another one for fruits, vegetables and cooked foods. Using separate cutting boards will reduce the risk of spreading bacteria from one type of food to another.
Make sure you cook all foods to the recommended safe internal temperatures (see Health Canada's chart on
safe intenal cooking temperatures) to kill off any bacteria. You can use a digital food thermometer to make sure your foods are safe to eat. Don’t forget to sanitize your food thermometer before and after each use.
Bacteria love to grow in temperatures between 4°C and 60°C, known in the food industry as the “Danger Zone”. Perishable food and leftovers need to be chilled to 4°C or lower within two hours of being at room temperature to slow down the growth of bacteria.
This two hour window applies to food you plan to freeze too. To freeze, wrap the food, seal it well and label it with the item and date before placing in the freezer (check out my videos on
food freezing tips and
food safety during a power outage for more).
Your refrigerated leftovers should be eaten within 3 to 4 days. Reheat any leftovers until steaming, with an internal temperature of 165 °F to ensure that any remaining bacteria is killed off and it’s safe to eat.
For more food safety tips, check out
Health Canada's Food Safety webpage.
And for some spooky but delicious recipe ideas be sure to visit the