Cooking Prep – Kitchen Cleanliness
It is not easy to take up cooking as a new skill set. Cooking is something that requires time and patience to learn. What’s more, the nutritional factor for each type of food changes with different factors like temperature, cookware, and exposure to other ingredients. It can be daunting to people who are unfamiliar with it all. Especially, when it comes to the health and safety parts of food prep.
People can get sick by swallowing harmful bacteria when eating something under cooked. They can even accidentally poison themselves from eating the wrong parts of a vegetable. It also hasn’t helped matters since there have been recalls on things that are supposed to be part of a healthy diet, thanks to both outbreaks of foodborne illnesses, and government shutdowns of important food inspection facilities.
So, to make it easier for people who are resolving to eat healthier during the new year, we at Beks Bites are going to be talking about the importance of health and safety behind food prep.
This week, we are going to be talking about the importance of cleanliness in the kitchen.
Wash your Hands Often!
Living things, like animals, plants, and people are hosts to all sorts of bacteria and viruses. Sometimes, that bacteria is necessary to our survival and does important things like helping our digestive systems, and fighting infections. Other times, that bacteria is harmful to the point of being deadly if we are exposed to it. That is why most people have a natural aversion to things like feces and other forms of human waste. Those harbor harmful/bacteria that could kill us like E.coli and Salmonella.
After centuries of trying and failing, human beings have learned that the number one defense against the spread of diseases like the flu and premature death is soap and water. Regular hand washing removes pre-existing microbes, as well as bacteria that you might have picked up throughout the day, thus decreasing the chance of spreading disease and sickness.
You would think that something as simple as washing your hands would be a common enough practice outside of the kitchen. Sadly that is not the case. In a kitchen-study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, only 1/3rd of the participants actually remembered to wash their hands when they were supposed to. What’s more, only 24% of the 1/3 people that did wash their hands even bothered to use soap. That number is incredibly low, considering this is the health and welfare of themselves and others that are at stake!
So, what is the proper way to wash your hands to prevent germs from getting to your food? According to the CDC, you need to rub your hands vigorously while using soap and running water for thirty seconds.
Below is a list of times when it is appropriate if not outright necessary to wash your hands.
- Wash before eating or cooking
- Clean after using the bathroom
- Wash after touching animals
- Wash after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose
- Clean after playing outside
Keep your Work-space Clean!
In my life, I have learned that there are two different types of clean. One is an Aesthetic clean, a clean that looks good on a surface level. There are no visible signs of something dirty, and everything looks orderly, so it looks appropriate to someone who walks in and sees their environment. The other is a Deep Clean, one that is meant to kill germs and tackle things on a microscopic level.
In a kitchen, hospital, or bathroom, you want to aim for the second kind of clean. Mainly, this is because we are dealing with orifices or open wounds. Bacteria and other types of harmful germs can enter the body whenever there is an available opening. So, it would make sense that you would want to decrease the chances of that happening as much as possible in your kitchen. The best way to do that is to keep your area sanitized as much as possible. A few ways to do that are listed by the Canadian Center of Occupational Health and Safety.
- Maintain the general cleanliness of the kitchen by:
- Disposing of food scraps properly and removing crumbs
- Wiping counters clean with soap and water and sanitize with a disinfectant
- Sweeping and wet mopping floors to remove food
- Cleaning all surfaces, including counter tops, faucets, handles and knobs, refrigerator handles, stoves/ovens, other appliances, etc.
- Do not store garbage in the food preparation area. If possible, store garbage in a cold place to prevent bacteria growth and pest infestation.
- Inspect kitchen for signs of microbiological growth such as mold, slime, and fungi. Clean the affected area appropriately.
- Inspect the kitchen for any plumbing leaks.
- Choose an effective cleaning agent or disinfectant for the job. Water and Soap is sufficient for most jobs. Some resources will recommend disinfecting with bleach. While bleach is an effective disinfectant, it must be used with care. To sanitize, clean with 5mL (1 tsp) of bleach in 750 mL (3 cups) of water in a labeled spray bottle.
- Make sure that cleaning equipment and materials are conveniently located close to where they are needed.
- Launder dishcloths, aprons, and towels by using a washing machine.
- Clean the food storage area regularly where dry goods, pasta, rice, canned foods, and cereals are stored to prevent buildup of crumbs and other pieces of food.
Cross-contamination is when bacteria or germs from one type of food, or element, comes into contact with another food substance. This can happen when you are cooking something with multiple ingredients or when you store multiple ingredients improperly.
The results of cross-contamination at best if a couple of days of food poisoning, and at worst, severe food borne illnesses that can kill you if it is severe enough.
The steps for preventing cross-contamination include:
- Keep raw food such as meat, poultry, and vegetables separate from ready-to-eat food
- Don’t let raw meat drip onto other food – keep it in sealed containers at the bottom of your fridge
- Wash the chopping board and knife thoroughly if you use these for raw food and then ready-to-eat food
- Don’t wash meat before cooking it
- Unless packaging around vegetables says ‘ready-to-eat’ you must wash, peel or cook them before eating
This looks like an overwhelming amount of information. But it is important that you gain and maintain these good habits now. Especially during a time where we have to rely on ourselves for a little while in regards to public health and safety. Nutrition is only a piece of the puzzle that is health and wellness, after all. The more we educate ourselves, the better we do, so if you want to get into cooking and eating healthier, this will help in the long run. Next week, we will talk about fruit and vegetable prep.