As the weather gets cooler in Australia, virus survival and transmission are dramatically enhanced. Don’t risk painful food-borne illness, follow these simple tips to keep your loved ones safe this winter.

#1 Wash hands often

Did you handle raw meat and then open the fridge? Have you allowed liquid to seep at the bottom of the sink? Many cooks are guilty of these and more food preparation mistakes. When preparing a large meal, people often walk around the kitchen, touching various surfaces and handling different foods. While common, these mistakes can prove costly.

Remember, though, no matter how fresh your produce is, it still carries harmful bacteria. By simply handling food, then touching a surface, you can cause cross-contamination. To prevent this, simply wash your hands for 30 seconds before preparing a meal.

#2 Rinse off your produce

This tip is simple, yet often forgotten. Unfortunately, pesticide and pollution remnants are invisible to the naked eye. As fruit and vegetables look clean, many people neglect this step. While rinsing produce may seem like a small change, it dramatically decreases the likelihood of contamination.

It’s also important to know where your produce is grown. If you purchase fruit and vegetables from local growers, you’ll have a guarantee of freshness and quality. And, if possible, talk to the grower. Ask them about the food safety guidelines they need to follow. This way, you know you’ll have the freshest food possible.

#3 Sanitise food preparation surfaces

If left unwashed, kitchen surfaces are magnets for mould and bacteria growth. When cleaning up, it’s surprisingly common for people to miss spilled milk or raw meat drippings. Or, you may miss a messy sink or cutting board. When preparing food, all areas must be thoroughly cleaned. Leaving a mess in preparation areas can spread bacteria very quickly. To prevent this, ensure every area (including all kitchen surfaces and appliances) is cleaned properly.

#4 Separate all foods

The key to good food hygiene is keeping all refrigerated foods separate. Ensure meat is never stored above fruit and vegetables, as juices can seep out. Freeze all vegetables, meat and fish you don’t plan on using right away. When you thaw meat, keep it separate from all other foods. As soon as the meat is thawed, clean the area properly. Check exactly which food items belong in the fridge and which are best kept in the pantry. Any food which is prone to mould growth (such as garlic, potatoes and more) is ideally stored in a cool, dark area, such as a cellar.

#5 Store food carefully

Even though the weather is cooler, it’s important to be mindful of food storage. As a rule, meat and perishable items should not be left out for over two hours. If not refrigerated or frozen, they are susceptible to bacteria growth. This, in turn, is a leading cause of food poisoning. To speed up the cooling process, we recommend slicing leftover meat into serving sizes and storing these portions in small, covered containers.

#6 Cook at a safe temperature

It’s important to remember that perishable foods (such as dairy products and meat) only last for a brief period. This is true no matter how well it is cooked. A useful guide is, food is most susceptible to bacteria when kept between 4.5 and 60 degrees Celsius. As a reminder, write down the safe temperatures for red meat, white meat and more and place your notes on the fridge. Once you notice signs of spoilage, throw the food out. Even if it is cooked properly, old perishables can cause serious illness.

#7 Don’t forget the sink

Your sink is one of the most comfortable places for bacteria to hide. Unknown damage is caused by bits of leftover food on the sink handles, sink rim or splashing onto the counter. E. Coli can spread alarmingly fast from even the smallest amount of food scraps left on your counter or sink. And, don’t forget your sponges. To ensure bacteria doesn’t spread to every surface, thoroughly wash all sponges between every use and remember that old sponges clean less effectively, so replace them regularly. Also, wash any rags or cloths you handle regularly.

#8 Clean out your fridge

Some foods spoil sooner than others and others may leak. To maintain food safety, ensure you clean out your fridge before every winter season. Remove all food before thoroughly wiping down the shelves using baking soda and hot water. Allow drawers and any shelves which have residue from spills. Before restocking, ensure all surfaces are dry.

For more handy food safety tips, visit https://www.aia.edu.au/learn today.