There are a few points to remember when it comes to preparing your food.
Don't handle food if you have stomach problems such as diarrhoea or vomiting, or if you're sneezing or coughing regularly.
Check the food labels before you decide what to use. Shop-bought foods may come with different dates – a use-by or expiration date, and a best before date. Don’t use any foods that have passed their use-by date, even if you think they look fine, as they may not be safe to eat. However, you can use food after its best before date as this only refers to the quality of the food, rather than the safety of eating it. The only exception is eggs, which contain a type of bacteria called Salmonella that may multiply after the best before date. So always throw eggs away once this date has passed.
Keep anything that should be refrigerated out of the fridge for as short a time as possible, especially if the temperature is high or the room is very warm.
Always use different chopping boards and utensils to prepare raw meat or fish. This is because they contain harmful bacteria that can spread to anything they touch so they should be kept away from other foods. The bacteria are removed during cooking, but it’s important not to let them come into contact with any food that you’re not going to cook before eating it.
You may be able to buy colour-coded chopping boards, which can help to prevent confusion.
Cooking food at temperatures over 70°C will kill off any bacteria. If food isn't cooked at a high enough temperature, bacteria can still survive.
- Follow the recipe or packet instructions for cooking time and temperature, making sure that you pre-heat your oven properly.
- Food should be piping hot – you should be able to see steam coming out – before you serve it. You can use a food thermometer to check that food is cooked to the right temperature.
- Take special care that you cook meat all the way through. Unless you’re cooking steak or lamb and beef joints rare, it shouldn’t be pink in the middle. Use a clean skewer to pierce the meat. If it’s cooked properly, the juices will run clear. If you’re cooking meat so it’s rare, make sure that it’s properly sealed (browned) on the outside.
- Always re-heat pre-cooked food thoroughly and only do so once.
- When cooking food in the microwave, stir it well from time to time to ensure that it’s evenly cooked all the way through