This time of year, most fridges are stocked up with food and drinks to share with family and friends. Let’s not make ourselves and our guests sick by getting things wrong when preparing and serving food.
As the weather warms up, so does the environment for micro-organisms in foods, potentially allowing them to multiply faster to hazardous levels. So put the drinks on ice and keep the fridge for the food.
But what are some of those food safety myths we’ve long come to believe that aren’t actually true?
Myth 1: if you’ve defrosted frozen meat or chicken you can’t refreeze it.
From a safety point of view, it is fine to refreeze defrosted meat or chicken or any frozen food as long as it was defrosted in a fridge running at 5°C or below. Some quality may be lost by defrosting then refreezing foods as the cells break down a little and the food can become slightly watery.
Another option is to cook the defrosted food and then divide into small portions and refreeze once it has stopped steaming. Steam in a closed container leads to condensation, which can result in pools of water forming. This, combined with the nutrients in the food, creates the perfect environment for microbial growth. So it’s always best to wait about 30 minutes before refrigerating or freezing hot food.
Plan ahead so food can be defrosted in the fridge, especially with large items such as a frozen turkey or roll of meat. If left on the bench, the external surface could be at room temperature and micro-organisms could be growing rapidly while the centre of the piece is still frozen!
Myth 2: Wash meat before you prepare and/or cook it.
It is not a good idea to wash meats and poultry when preparing for cooking. Splashing water that might contain potentially hazardous bacteria around the kitchen can create more of a hazard if those bacteria are splashed onto ready-to-eat foods or food preparation surfaces.
It is, however, a good idea to wash fruits and vegetables before preparing and serving, especially if they’re grown near or in the ground as they may carry some dirt and therefore micro-organisms.