Food

A - D

A


Acrylamide

Acrylamide is a chemical that is used to make polyacrylamide materials. Polyacrylamide is used in the treatment of drinking water and waste water where it is used to remove particles and other impurities. It is also used to make glues, paper and cosmetics.

It appears to be produced naturally in some food that have been cooked or processed at high temperature and the levels appear to increase with the duration of heating. The highest levels found so far were in starchy food (potato and cereal products).

Acrylamide is known to cause cancer in animals. Certain doses of acrylamide are also toxic to the nervous system of both animals and humans.

Food should not be cooked excessively, i.e. for too long or at too high a temperature. However, all food, especially meat and meat products, should be cooked well to destroy food poisoning bacteria.

The information available on acrylamide so far reinforces general advice on healthy eating, including moderating consumption of fried and fatty foods. There is not enough evidence about the amounts of acrylamide in different types of food to recommend avoiding any particular food product.

Animals

Make sure that insects, birds and rodents are kept out of the kitchen and throw out any food they come into contact with.

As much as we love our pets they do carry germs. Keep them - and their feeding bowls - away from your food and food preparation areas, and wash your hands after touching them. Give pets their own feeding bowls and clean these separately from other utensils. Store pet food away from human food.

Anti-bacterial cleaners

Anti-bacterial cleaners are a type of disinfectant that can kill germs. Always follow the instructions to ensure that these disinfectants are used properly.

Clean surfaces with detergent to remove any grease or dirt, then apply the disinfectant to kill any remaining germs.


B


Babies

Babies' immune systems are less developed than adults'. That puts them at greater risk of illness so take extra care:

  • Wash bottles in hot soapy water and sterilise using sterilising solution or a steam steriliser.
  • When adding water to baby foods, milk and other drinks always use cooled, boiled water.
  • Cook foods thoroughly until piping hot and cool rapidly until comfortable to eat.
  • Cook eggs until the white and yolk are solid or use pasteurised egg products.
  • Keep the kitchen extra clean - especially the floor where babies love to crawl.
  • Wipe high chairs, bibs and eating areas before and after every meal.
  • Keep dirty nappies away from food and food preparation areas and always wash hands after handling dirty nappies.

Bacillus cereus

Bacillus cereus is a microbe that causes food poisoning. It is frequently found in rice dishes, occasionally pasta, meat or vegetable dishes, dairy products, soups, sauces and sweet pastry products where these have not been cooled quickly and effectively after cooking and during storage. Illness may be caused by a small number of bacteria.

Bacillus cereus is not easily destroyed by heat and will survive cooking. The spores will germinate and produce bacteria. Bacteria can multiply rapidly if food is cooled slowly or kept warm for some time before serving.

Bacillus cereus can cause two distinct types of illness - a diarrhoeal form (diarrhoea and abdominal pain) with an incubation period of 8 to 16 hours and an emetic form (primarily vomiting, possibly with diarrhoea) with an incubation period of 1 to 5 hours. In both types, the illness usually lasts less than 24 hours after onset.

Bacteria

'Bugs' and 'germs' are the common names for the harmful organisms - such as bacteria and viruses - that cause food poisoning. Because we can only see them through a microscope, they are also called microbes or micro-organisms.

They can get into our food at any point in the food chain - from the time it is produced to the moment it is put on our table for consumption.

If they are allowed to survive and multiply in food, they can cause illness when that food is eaten.

Food-poisoning bacteria multiply fast, but to do so they need moisture, food, warmth and time. They multiply best between 5°C and 60°C. One germ can multiply to more than 4 million in just 8 hours under the right conditions. Food poisoning micro-organisms can be dangerous and can kill - although this is rare. They are very hard to detect since they do not usually affect the taste, appearance or smell of food.

"Best Before" Dates

No food lasts forever however well it is stored. Most pre-packed foods carry either a 'best before' or 'use by' date. Check them carefully.

  • 'Use by' dates are for highly perishable food. It can be dangerous to eat food that have passed their 'use by' dates.
  • 'Best before' dates are for food with a longer shelf life. They indicate how long the food will be at its best quality.

Even if a food is within these dates, do not eat it if you have any doubts about the safety of the food.

Barbeques

Cooking food outdoors can increase the risk of food poisoning. It is harder to keep food very hot or very cold, and to keep everything clean, so take extra care.

  • Keep meats, salads and other perishable food in a cool bag with ice packs or in the fridge until just before you are ready to cook or eat them. Serve salads last.
  • During cooking, turn food often. If it starts to burn on the outside raise the grill height or reduce the heat of the charcoal (dampen coals slightly or partially close air vents).
  • Cook poultry, burgers and sausages well - there should be no pink bits in the middle. If possible, fully pre-cook all poultry and sausages in the microwave or oven first. Thereafter, cook them over the barbecue pit to add the final barbecue flavour.
  • Keep raw and cooked food apart at all times. Do not handle cooked food with utensils that have touched raw meat or put cooked or ready-to-eat food on plates that have held raw meat.
  • Keep serving bowls covered to protect them from dust, insects and pets.

Burgers

Ensure that the meat patties, sausages or poultry in burgers are always cooked well; they should not be 'rare' or pink in the middle, and when pierced with a knife, any juice that runs out of the meat should be clear, not bloody.


C


Campylobacter

Campylobacter is a bacterial microbe that causes food poisoning in humans. It can be found in raw poultry and meat, unpasteurised milk, and untreated water. It can also be found in pets like cats and dogs.

Campylobacter is usually transmitted through consuming undercooked meats and meat products, as well as contaminated milk, water or ice. Thorough cooking of food and pasteurisation of milk will destroy Campylobacter.

Symptoms for food poisoning caused by Campylobacter include fever, headache and a feeling of being unwell, followed by severe abdominal pain and diarrhoea which may be bloody. Symptoms normally take 2-5 days to appear, but they can take as long as 10 days.

Canned Food

When buying canned food, check that they are not dented, leaking or swollen.

Before opening canned food, wipe the tops of the cans to remove any dust and dirt. Do not forget to clean the can opener.

Never put opened canned food in the refrigerator. Transfer the unused portion into an airtight container first and then keep it in the refrigerator to maintain its quality.

Clean surfaces

Work surfaces such as kitchen tabletops may contain bacteria as a result of contact with dirty equipment, raw food and people. If the surface is not cleaned thoroughly, the bacteria will contaminate any food that is in contact with the surface.

Keep all work surfaces clean. After each task, remove all food scraps, crumbs, spillage or spots as these can serve as potential reservoirs of bacteria.

After handling raw meat, poultry, fish and other raw food always wash hands, utensils and surfaces thoroughly before allowing them to come into contact with other food, especially cooked and ready-to-eat food.

Regularly change, wash and sanitise cloths used for wiping tables or equipment. Never use cloths for cleaning dirty areas to clean anything that may come into contact with food.

Cleaning cloths

Use separate cloths or sponges for separate tasks. Where possible, use disposable cloths. If you are using the cloths or sponges more than once, wash them in hot water and soap then place them in a suitable disinfectant, rinse thoroughly and allow them to dry. Do not soak them overnight as disinfectant solutions weaken and may allow bacteria to grow.

Regularly change, wash and sanitise cloths used for wiping tables or equipment. Never use cloths for cleaning dirty areas to clean anything that may come into contact with food.

Clostridium perfringens

Clostridium perfringens is a microbe that causes food poisoning. It is excreted by a wide range of animals. It can also be found in soil, animal manure, sewage as well as raw meat and poultry.

Clostridium perfringens produces spores which may not be killed during cooking. If food is allowed to cool slowly, the spores germinate and produce bacteria which grow rapidly. These bacteria may not be killed unless the food is reheated until it is piping hot. It is particularly found in gravy, cooked meat dishes, stews and very large joints of meat and poultry.

Symptoms are mainly abdominal pain, diarrhoea and sometimes nausea starting usually start 8-18 hours after eating the food. It may cause fatalities in the elderly and sick.

Cooking food

Follow recipes and label instructions on cooking times and temperatures. Check that the food is piping hot before serving. Double-check that sausages, burgers and poultry are cooked right through. There should not be 'rare' or pink in the middle and when pierced with a knife any juice that runs out of the meat should be clear, not bloody.

Do not cook food too early. All cooked food should be refrigerated or frozen within 2 hours after cooking

Cooler bags

Use a cooler bag or box to keep chilled and frozen food cool when shopping and buy these food last. Use enough ice packs to keep cooler bags really cool.

When having a barbecue or picnic keep meats, salads and other perishable food cool in the fridge or in a cooler bag until just before you are ready to cook or eat them. Use separate cooler bags for raw meat and cooked or ready-to-eat food. Cooler bags can keep food cool for a limited period only, so cook sooner rather than later.

Cross-contamination

Food poisoning often occurs when harmful bacteria on one food are spread to other food through cross-contamination. Good hygiene practices help prevent this. Wash hands after handling raw food and before touching other food and utensils.

Keep raw food separate from cooked and ready-to-eat food at all times. In particular keep raw meat, fish, poultry and other raw food away from ready-to-eat foods such as salads, bread and sandwiches.

Wash knives and cutting boards between uses, especially when working with raw and cooked food. Where possible, use separate cutting boards for raw and cooked food.

Cutting Boards

Wash and dry knives and cutting boards thoroughly after every use and especially between cutting raw meat, fish and poultry and cutting cooked and ready-to-eat food. Ideally use separate cutting boards for raw and cooked food.


D


Dairy Products

If you are buying dairy products, check that the packaging is intact and do not buy them if they have passed their expiry dates. Do not buy dairy products that have been stored or displayed beyond the 'load line'. The 'load line' indicates the level up to which food may be stored and kept at the correct temperature.

Do not take chilled or frozen dairy products from chillers or freezers and leave them lying on shelves elsewhere in the supermarket. This compromises the safety and quality of the food. If you wish to put back a chilled or frozen item, ensure that it is placed properly below the load line in the chiller or freezer.

Buy chilled and frozen dairy products last and head home directly.

Danger Zone

Food poisoning bacteria multiply best between 5°C and 60°C - this is known as the temperature danger zone. Proper heating and chilling of food can help reduce the risk of food poisoning. Keep hot food piping hot (above 60°C) and cold food in the fridge (below 5°C) until it is time to eat.

Dirt

Dirt can harbour dangerous germs. Good hygiene reduces the risks, so keep the kitchen and all utensils and kitchen equipment clean.

The soil on fruit and vegetables can also harbour germs so wash them before use, especially when they are to be eaten raw. Wash fruits individually in a basin of tap water or under a tap.

For leafy vegetables, remove the soiled portions of the vegetables and/or cut off the base and wash away any residual soil in a basin of tap water. Soak the vegetables in fresh tap water for 15 minutes. Before cutting and cooking, rinse the vegetables once more under a tap or in a basin of fresh tap water. For harder items like potatoes, scrub the skin gently with a brush.

Dishcloths

Use separate cloths or sponges for separate tasks; where possible, use disposable cloths. If using cloths or sponges more than once, wash them in hot water and soap then place them in a suitable disinfectant, rinse thoroughly and allow them to dry. Do not soak overnight as disinfectant solutions weaken and may allow bacteria to grow.

Disinfectants

Disinfectants, such as bleach, are designed to kill germs. These are powerful agents and should not be used indiscriminately. Always follow the instructions to ensure that these disinfectants are used properly.

Clean surfaces with detergent to remove any grease or dirt, then apply the disinfectant to kill any remaining germs.

Use separate cloths or sponges for separate tasks; where possible, use disposable cloths. If you are using the cloths or sponges more than once, wash them in hot water and soap then place them in a suitable disinfectant, rinse thoroughly and allow them to dry. Do not soak them overnight as disinfectant solutions weaken and may allow bacteria to grow.

Dried Food

Dried and preserved food are a particular favourite in Singapore. While we enjoy these foods, such as nuts, lotus seeds, barbequed meat, sausages, meat floss and preserved fruits like dates and mangoes, we have to take care that we do not eat them if they become mouldy, off- flavour or spoiled.

Consumption of mouldy food could lead to severe food poisoning caused by mycotoxins or bacteria.

After opening packets of dried food (e.g. flour, rice and breakfast cereals) reseal them tightly or transfer them into airtight containers.

E - H

E


E. Coli

Coli is a microbe that causes food poisoning. It is normally found in the guts of animals and humans. One type which can cause serious illness is the Verocytotoxin producing E. coli O157 which has been found in raw and undercooked meat, unpasteurised milk and dairy products, raw vegetables and unpasteurised apple juice.

The bacteria can survive refrigeration and freezer storage, but thorough cooking of food and pasteurisation of milk will kill them.

Symptoms normally take about 2 days to develop but may start within a day, or take up to 5 days to come on. The main symptom is diarrhoea. In some cases, particularly in children under the age of 6 and in the elderly, infection can lead to diarrhoea which may be bloody and severe, kidney failure, and sometimes death.

Eggs

Store eggs in the refrigerator and take note of their 'best before' dates.

Raw eggs may contain micro-organisms that can cause food poisoning. To avoid cross-contamination, prepare raw eggs away from other food, especially cooked and ready-to-eat food.

After handling eggs, always wash hands, utensils and surfaces thoroughly and before any contact with other food.

Elderly or sick people, babies, young children and pregnant women should only eat eggs that are thoroughly cooked (until both the yolk and white are solid).


F


Fish

Store fish in the fridge. To avoid cross-contamination, store fish away from other food, especially cooked food and ready-to-eat food (such as salads, fruit, cooked meat, cheeses, bread and sandwiches). Store fish well covered, on the bottom shelf of the fridge so that the juices cannot drip onto other food. After handling raw fish, always wash hands, utensils and surfaces thoroughly and before any contact with other food.

Elderly or sick people, young children and pregnant women should avoid eating raw or partially cooked fish and shellfish.

Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is a broad term that covers any disease of an infectious or toxic nature caused by the consumption of contaminated food or water.

Diarrhoea, abdominal pains ('tummy ache'), vomiting, nausea and fever are all common symptoms of food poisoning. These symptoms usually come on quickly but can occur several days after eating contaminated food. If possible, avoid preparing food for yourself or others until the symptoms have passed.

Fridges

Keep chilled or frozen meat seafood, dairy products and eggs in the fridge or freezer. For other types of food, check the labels to see which ones need to be stored in the fridge and for how long they can be stored after opening.

Do not open fridge or freezer doors unnecessarily and always ensure that there is sufficient space between items placed in the fridge or freezer so that cold air can circulate freely.

Frozen Food

When shopping, buy chilled and frozen foods last. Pack them together, ideally in an insulated bag or cool box, and take them home and put in the fridge or freezer as soon as you can.

Check the label on pre-packed food to see if it is suitable for home freezing. If so, freeze as soon as possible after purchase. The star marking panel on food labels will tell you how long you can store your food, depending on your type of freezer.

When freezing home-cooked foods, use clean freezer bags and label them with the date of freezing and description of the food. Check your freezer manual or cook book to see how long you can store the foods.


G


Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis means inflammation of the stomach and small and large intestines. Viral gastroenteritis is an infection caused by a variety of viruses that results in vomiting or diarrhea. It is also known as the "stomach flu," although it is not caused by the influenza virus.

The main symptoms of viral gastroenteritis are watery diarrhea and vomiting. The affected person may also have headache, fever, and abdominal cramps ("stomach ache").

In general, the symptoms begin 1 to 2 days following infection with a virus that causes gastroenteritis and may last for 1 to 10 days, depending on which virus causes the illness.

Germs

Germs are any micro-organism that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Germs include bacteria, viruses, fungi and algae.

The kitchen, bathroom, laundry room - any place that provides a warm, moist environment - are ideal places for germs to live. They can pass from surface to surface and even from your hands to your food.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water before and after you prepare food, and after you use the bathroom, change diapers, handle pets, cough, sneeze, or blow your nose.
  • Consider using disposable paper towels instead of dishcloths or sponges, which can harbor bacteria. Throw away the paper towels after you have finished cleaning, and wash dishcloths frequently in the hot cycle of your washing machine.

GM Food

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are plants, animals or bacteria that have one or a few selected genes from other organisms introduced into them through the use of modern gene technology. The food and feed which contain or consist of such GMOs, or are produced from GMOs, are called genetically modified (GM) food or feed.

In contrast, conventional breeding involves the selected breeding of plants or animals with specific desirable traits. Conventional breeding generally takes much longer to produce the desired organism compared to genetic modification.


H


Hand washing

Wash your hands regularly throughout the day and especially:

  • Before: Preparing food; eating; caring for the sick, looking after babies or the elderly; starting work - especially if you are a food handler or health professional.
  • Between: Handling raw food (meat, fish, poultry and eggs) and touching any other food or kitchen utensils.
  • After: Preparing food, especially raw food; going to the toilet; emptying rubbish bins; caring for the sick; coughing or sneezing.

Always use warm water. Rub hands together vigorously for about 15 seconds, making sure both sides of the hands are washed fully, around the thumbs, between fingers and around and under nails. Rinse with clean water.

Hygiene

The micro-organisms on our food that can cause food poisoning are usually controlled by heating (cooking) and/or chilling (refrigerating) our food. However, given the chance, they can easily be spread around the kitchen - via our hands, chopping boards, cloths, knives and other utensils. If they are allowed to cross-contaminate other food - especially cooked and ready-to-eat food - they can make us ill. Good kitchen hygiene and good personal hygiene are important to help control the spread of harmful germs.


I - L

I


Insects

Make sure that insects, birds and rodents are kept out of the kitchen and throw away any food they come into contact with. To control flies and wasps, hang an insecticidal strip - do not use aerosol sprays in the kitchen. If you have an infestation of cockroaches, ants or other insects, you might need to seek professional advice from a commercial pest control agency.

Insulated Bags

Use an insulated or cooler bag or box to keep chilled and frozen food cool when shopping and buy these food last. Use enough ice packs to keep cooler bags really cool.

When having a barbecue or picnic keep meats, salads and other perishable food cool in the fridge or in a cooler bag until just before you are ready to cook or eat them. Ideally, use separate cooler bags for raw meat and cooked or ready-to-eat food. Cooler bags can only keep food cool for a limited period, so cook sooner rather than later.


K


Kitchen

Dirty kitchens attract pests such as cockroaches that can carry harmful bacteria. Clean all kitchen surfaces and countertops with detergent and hot water.

Kitchen rubbish bins are a common breeding ground for germs, so empty them regularly. Use a bin liner and tie up the rubbish bags before removing them from the kitchen to avoid food waste spilling onto the floor.

Knives

Wash and dry knives and chopping boards thoroughly after every use and especially between cutting raw meat, fish and poultry and cutting cooked and ready-to-eat food.


L


Labels

Check labels for 'best before' and 'use by' dates.

Follow recipes and label instructions on cooking times and temperatures. When cooking pre-packaged frozen food always follow the defrosting and/or cooking instructions.

Leftovers

Left-overs should be stored in the fridge and eaten within four days. When in doubt about the safety or quality of the food. throw it out.

Listeria

Listeria monocytogenes is a micro-organism that causes food poisoning. It can be found in soil, vegetation, raw milk, meat, poultry, cheeses (particularly soft mould-ripened varieties) and salads. It is also found in the guts of animals and humans.

Unlike most other food poisoning bacteria, it can grow at low temperatures, even in the fridge. However, thorough cooking of food and pasteurisation of milk will destroy Listeria.

Symptoms can range from mild flu-like illness to meningitis and septicaemia; and in pregnant women, abortion, miscarriage or birth of an infected child. Other susceptible groups are those with weak immune systems, the young and the old.


M - P

M


Meat

Raw food, such as meat and poultry, may contain bacteria that can cause food poisoning. To prevent this, store them well covered, on the bottom shelf of the fridge or freezer so they cannot drip onto other food. This will prevent cross-contamination.

Sausages, burgers and poultry must be cooked thoroughly. They should not be 'rare' or pink in the middle, and when pierced with a knife any juices that run out of the meat should be clear, not bloody.

Micro-organisms

'Bugs' and 'germs' are the common names for the harmful organisms - such as bacteria and viruses - that cause food poisoning. Because we can only see them through a microscope they are also called microbes or micro-organisms.

They can get into our food at any point in the food chain - from the time it is produced to the moment it is put on our table for consumption. If they are allowed to survive and multiply, they can cause illness when that food is eaten.

Food-poisoning bacteria multiply fast, especially at temperatures between 5°C and 60°C.

Minced meat

Keep raw minced meat away from other food, especially cooked and ready-to-eat food such as salads, bread and sandwiches.
After handling minced meat, always wash hands and utensils thoroughly before coming into contact with other food.

Dishes containing minced meat must be cooked thoroughly; they should not be 'rare' or pink in the middle and when pierced with a knife any juice that runs out of the meat should be clear, not bloody.


O


Overstocking

Avoid overstocking - use up older items first and take note of 'best before' and 'use by' dates.
Do not overload your fridge. If it is over-packed with food or iced up, it is harder to keep the temperature down.

Oscar, The Food Safety Otter

AVA has chosen the Asian Otter to be Singapore's food safety mascot.

The otter was chosen because it consumes a wide variety of food and observes good food safety habits such as washing its food before eating.

Through Oscar, AVA hopes to bring the food safety message closer to your heart.

Ensuring food safety is a shared responsibility. The message that Oscar, our food safety mascot has for all of us is, "Together, let's keep food safe."


P


Pests

When buying food, take note of the personal hygiene of the seller, the environmental hygiene of the retail establishment, and the cleanliness of the containers. Check for insect infestations, and do not buy food if the packaging has been damaged or opened.

Make sure that insects, birds and rodents are kept out of the kitchen, and throw out any food they come into contact with. To control flies and wasps, hang an insecticidal strip (do not use aerosol sprays in the kitchen) and use traps for mice and rats.

Pets

As much as we love our pets, they do carry germs. Keep them - and their feeding bowls - away from your food and food preparation areas, and wash your hands after touching them.

Give pets their own feeding bowls, and clean these separately from other utensils.
Store pet food away from human food.

Pregnancy

Pregnant women, babies and young children, the elderly and the sick are more vulnerable to food poisoning. Seek treatment immediately if they display symptoms of food poisoning.

Pregnant women should avoid eating raw or partially cooked fish and shellfish, and should only eat eggs that have been thoroughly cooked (until both yolk and white are solid).

Q - T

R


Raw food

Raw food, such as meat, poultry and seafood, may contain micro-organisms that can cause food poisoning. To avoid cross-contamination, store these food away from other food, especially cooked and ready-to-eat food (such as salads, fruit, cooked meat, cheese, bread and sandwiches). Keep them well covered, on the bottom shelf of the fridge or freezer so they the juices from these raw food cannot drip onto other food.

After handling raw meat, poultry, fish and eggs, always wash hands and kitchen utensils thoroughly before coming into any contact with other food, especially cooked and ready-to-eat food.

Ready-to-eat food

Ready-to-eat food like salads, bread and sandwiches should be kept apart from raw food like meat, poultry, fish and eggs at all times.

Raw food, such as meat, poultry and seafood, may contain micro-organisms that can cause food poisoning. To avoid cross-contamination, store these food away from other food, especially cooked and ready-to-eat food. Keep them well covered, on the bottom shelf of the fridge or freezer so they the juices from these raw food cannot drip onto other food.

After handling raw meat, poultry, fish and eggs always wash hands and kitchen utensils thoroughly before coming into any contact with other food, especially cooked and ready-to-eat food.

Rubbish bins

Kitchen rubbish bins are a common breeding ground for germs, so empty them regularly. Use a bin liner and tie up the rubbish bags before removing them from the kitchen to avoid food waste spilling onto the floor.

Rubbish bins can get dirty, even with a liner, so clean them out with hot water and disinfectant regularly. Wash your hands after touching waste and waste bins.


S


Salmonella Enteritidis

Salmonella can be found in raw meat, poultry and eggs, raw unwashed vegetables, unpasteurised milk and dairy products and many other types of food. It is found in the gut and faeces of animals and humans, and is the second most common cause of food poisoning.

It normally takes 12 to 48 hours for symptoms to develop. Symptoms may include fever, diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Infection may be very severe, and in some cases may be fatal. It is particularly likely to cause severe illness in the very young and very old. Symptoms may last up to three weeks, and there may be complications such as reactive arthritis.

Seafood

Raw food, such as meat and seafood, may contain bacteria that can cause food poisoning. To prevent this, keep them well covered, on the bottom shelf of the fridge or freezer so that the juices from these food cannot drip onto other food. This will prevent cross-contamination.

Eating raw seafood instead of cooked seafood can make us more prone to food poisoning. As such, those with poor immune systems should avoid taking raw or partially cooked seafood.

Big fishes, especially those higher in the food chain may have higher mercury content. Such fishes can accumulate methylmercury in their flesh. This can affect an unborn child's nervous system. Expectant mothers and young children, who are more susceptible to the harmful effects of methylmercury, are advised to eat such seafood in moderate quantities and to maintain a balanced diet.

Separate

Separate raw food from cooked or ready-to-eat food as they may contain micro-organisms that can cause food poisoning.

To avoid cross-contamination, keep raw food well covered, on the bottom shelf of the fridge or freezer so that the juices from these raw food cannot drip onto other food.

If possible, use separate cutting boards and utensils when handling raw food. After handling raw meat, poultry, fish and eggs, always wash hands and kitchen utensils thoroughly before coming into any contact with other food, especially cooked and ready-to-eat food.

Shellfish

Clams, oysters, mussels and cockles in the shell should be alive, and the shells should close tightly when tapped.

Store live oysters, clams and mussels in the refrigerator. Keep them damp. Do not place them on ice, or let them come into contact with fresh water. Do not place them in airtight containers.

Wash and refrigerate freshly chucked oysters, scallops and clams in separate containers. For best quality, they should be eaten immediately.

Shopping

When shopping, buy chilled and frozen food last. Head home immediately after buying chilled and frozen food so that they will not remain unrefrigerated for too long. Pack them together, ideally in an insulated bag or cooler box, and put them in the fridge/freezer as soon as you can.

Keep raw food (meat, fish and poultry), fruits and vegetables and ready-to-eat food away from each other. Pack food that bruise or damage easily above other food.

Spoilt food

Throw away:

  • any food that looks, tastes or smells off
  • fruits or vegetables that have started to rot
  • food from rusty or damaged cans, or from leaking cartons
  • cooked food that has been left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours

Sponges

Use different cloths or sponges for separate tasks; where possible, use disposable cloths. If you are using the cloths or sponges more than once, wash them in hot water and soap then place them in a suitable disinfectant, rinse thoroughly and allow them to dry. Do not soak them overnight as disinfectant solutions weaken and may allow bacteria to grow.

Staphylococcus aureus

Staphylococcus aureus may be found on the skin, in infected cuts and boils and in the nose. It may also be found in unpasteurised milk. It can be transferred to food from the hands, or from droplets from the nose or mouth.

Food poisoning from Staphylococcus aureus can occur if a person consumes heavily contaminated food (where bacteria have multiplied and produced a toxin). High-risk food include cooked meat, poultry and food which are handled during preparation without subsequent cooking.

Onset of symptoms varies between 2 and 6 hours. Symptoms are severe vomiting, abdominal pains and diarrhoea. They generally last no longer than 2 days.

Storing cooked food

Do not put hot food directly into the fridge or freezer. Let it cool sufficiently first but remember that cooling should be completed within one or two hours after cooking. Use shallow containers and leave sufficient air space around the food to promote rapid and even cooling.


T


Temperature danger zone

Food poisoning bacteria multiply best between 5°C and 60°C - this is known as the temperature danger zone. Proper heating and chilling of food can help reduce the risk of food poisoning. Keep hot food piping hot (above 60°C) and cold food in the fridge (below 5°C) until it is time to eat.

Thawing

Thaw frozen meat and seafood in the refrigerator or use the microwave oven. Place them on the bottom shelf of the fridge in a container to prevent the juices from the raw meat or seafood from cross-contaminating other cooked or ready-to-eat food. Do not refreeze food that has been thawed.

For pre-packaged frozen food, always follow the instructions on defrosting and/or cooking, and allow sufficient time for food to be thoroughly cooked. Check it before serving.

U - Z

U


UHT milk

Ultra Heat Treated (UHT) milk can be stored at room temperature until its expiry date. However once it is opened, it should be kept chilled and consumed within a week.

"Use by" dates

No food lasts forever however well it is stored. Most pre-packed foods carry either a 'best before' or 'use by' date. Check them carefully.

  • 'Use by' dates are for highly perishable food. It can be dangerous to eat food that have passed their 'use by' date.
  • 'Best before' dates are for food with a longer shelf life. They indicate how long the food will be at its best quality.

Even if a food is within these dates, do not eat it if you have any doubts about the safety of the food.

Utensils

After use, wash all utensils with hot water and dishwashing liquid. Change the water regularly then rinse in clean, hot water.

Store cooking, eating and drinking utensils in cupboards and drawers. Where possible, use clean kitchen utensils, not fingers, for handling food.

Use separate utensils for handling raw and cooked food. After using utensils for raw food, wash and dry them thoroughly before using them for other food, especially cooked and ready-to-eat food.


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Vegetables

Root vegetables such as potatoes, leeks and carrots often have traces of soil on them which can contain harmful bacteria, so wash them thoroughly before use, especially when they are to be eaten raw. You may do this by scrubbing the skin gently with a brush.

Soak leafy vegetables in fresh tap water for 15 minutes. Before cutting and cooking, rinse the vegetables once more under a tap or in a basin of fresh tap water. Special detergents are not necessary.

Do not mix fruits with vegetables in the same storage compartment as fruits produce ethylene gas during their ripening process. Ethylene gas can cause yellowing of green vegetables.

Always throw away vegetables that have started to rot.


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