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High risk food that isn’t handled and used properly is the main reason for food poisoning. Around 500 people a year die from food poisoning cases in England and Wales. It is important to know how to handle them properly so that people don’t get poorly or end up dying.
What is a high risk food?
High risk foods are ready to eat foods that support the multiplication of pathogenic bacteria that could be harmful. It is important to handle and store high risk foods separately from raw foods to prevent the risk of cross contamination.
High risk foods include:
- Cooked meat and poultry.
- Smoked salmon.
- Prepared salads and vegetables.
- Cooked sliced meats.
- Cooked chicken pieces.
- Milk, cream, ice cream.
- Meat gravies, sauces, pâté and meat pies.
- Eggs – especially foods made with raw egg, such as mousse and mayonnaise.
- Seafoods such as shellfish, cooked prawns and oysters.
- Cooked rice, pasta, cooked potato and vegetables that aren’t high in protein.
What bacteria can cause food poisoning?
Cooked meat and poultry that is raw or undercooked have a higher risk of causing food poisoning. Salmonella and Campylobacter are two of the most common contaminates. Cooking the raw meat kills the bacteria, however if the bacteria is spread before it is cooked or the meat isn’t cooked properly, it can cause food poisoning. Even the smallest amount of the bacteria can cause people to become poorly.
Raw milk has harmful bacteria in it, this is because it hasn’t been pasteurised. Pasteurisation is where milk is heated up to kill of any harmful bacteria. A bacteria that can be found in raw milk is E. coli that is bacteria from the intestines of an animal. It can cause a food poisoning
Uncooked rice can be infected with bacillus cereus, cooking can be the perfect breeding ground for the bacteria to grow. It is important to store cooked rice in the fridge once it has cooled down. This helps to prevent the bacteria growing even more.
Eggs are high risk when they are raw or undercooked and can cause food poisoning. Salmonella is the most common contaminates, salmonella can also be found in poultry.
Cheeses are high risk foods, it is important to store cheese in the fridge and make sure you wash your hands and make sure that chopping boards and knifes used to cut the cheese are clean before using.
Who is most at risk of high-risk foods and how to handle the food safely
For people who have low immune systems, they can struggle if they get food poisoning, as it is harder for them to fight off the illness and things can get worse quickly. It can even end up in a fatality. The people who are most at risk are children, the elderly, pregnant women and those who are already poorly and are fighting something.
How to handle high risk foods safely:
- Try to avoid touching the food by hand – Use clean and disinfected utensils such as tongs whenever possible to prevent cross contamination.
- Keep food in the refrigerator until it is required for preparation or service, this way it is less likely for harmful bacteria to be spread.
- Cover the food during storage to prevent contamination, this means that if there were any uncooked meats near the food none of the meat juices would leak onto the cooked food.
- Keep raw and high-risk foods separate to avoid cross contamination, raw meat should be stored on the lower shelves of a fridge.
- Store foods outside of the danger zone of temperatures which is between 5 and 63℃. Make sure that fridges are checked regularly to make sure they are at the right temperature.
- Limit the time taken to prepare high risk foods as much as possible.
Coloured chopping boards
There are steps you can put in place in your kitchen to make sure that you reduce the risk of contaminating foods.
Different colored chopping boards can help people to identify what foods they can cut on the chopping board.
Red is for raw meat, Blue is for raw fish, Yellow is for cooked meats, Green is for salads & fruits, Brown is for vegetables, White is for dairy products and Purple is for allergens.
Colored chopping boards help people to identify which chopping board they need to use, it is better than labelling them. A colored chopping board sign can be displayed above or close to the chopping boards which will help to remind people which chopping board they need to use. You can also buy colored index dividers that can go between the knifes, each divider has a symbol on it with what the board can be used for, e.g. fish symbol for the board to cut fish. It is important to make sure that you wash these dividers often though to make sure that the indexes don’t pass bacteria onto the chopping board.
Colored utensils such as knifes can also be used, they follow the same color code as what chopping boards use. This is another way to help prevent the risk of cross contamination.
It is important to keep these knives separate from each other. It is important that they aren’t kept in a knife block where they will be side by side. If a knife is put back in the block that has bacteria on it, there is higher risk of the other knifes being contaminated.