August 15, 2009

Food Safety

When heat is used in the preparation of food, it can kill or inactivate potentially harmful organisms including bacteria and viruses.

The effect will depend on temperature, cooking time, and technique used. The temperature range from 41°F to 135°F (5°C to 57°C) is the "food danger zone." Between these temperatures bacteria can grow rapidly. Under optimal conditions, E. coli, for example, can double in number every twenty minutes. The food may not appear any different or spoiled but can be harmful to anyone who eats it. Meat, poultry, dairy products, and other prepared food must be kept outside of the "food danger zone" to remain safe to eat. Refrigeration and freezing do not kill bacteria, but only slow their growth. When cooling hot food, it should not be left standing or in a blast chiller for more than 90 minutes.

Cutting boards are a potential breeding ground for bacteria, and can be quite hazardous unless safety precautions are taken. Plastic cutting boards are less porous than wood and have conventionally been assumed to be far less likely to harbor bacteria. This has been debated, and some research has shown wooden boards are far better. Washing and sanitizing cutting boards is highly recommended, especially after use with raw meat, poultry, or seafood. Hot water and soap followed by a rinse with an antibacterial cleaner (dilute bleach is common in a mixture of 1 tablespoon per gallon of water, as at that dilution it is considered food safe, though some professionals choose not to use this method because they believe it could taint some foods), or a trip through a dishwasher with a "sanitize" cycle, are effective methods for reducing the risk of illness due to contaminated cooking implements.

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