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Handling Meat is Number One in Food Safety

Paleontologists - scientists who study fossils - now think that a diet rich in meat protein led to the divergence of human species from our ape ancestors. Whether we actually hunted our prehistoric prey as some maintain or scavenged the rich marrow of bones left by other predators as others claim, the results were the same: Meat made humans what we are today.

As varied as the citizens of the world's tastes are, meat continues to figure big in many kitchens. Americans are responsible for a consumption of around 185 pounds of meat per person per year. A big part of that - roughly around 60 pounds - is beef. On the other hand, a typical Australian is able to eat 240 pounds of meat per year. Tastes change too as lamb and mutton are falling out of favor and are less popular than they are 40 years ago. Because of this popularity, the chance of incidents due to improper handling is quite high.

If left exposed, raw meat can harbor harmful microorganizams like Escherichia coli, more popularly known as E.coli, along with Salmonella and Staphylococcus Aureus or staph. Those with compromised immune systems are especially susceptible to the illnesses caused by these bacteria with the most severe cases possibly resulting in death.

Always defrost frozen chicken, beef, pork, lamb, mutton or other meats in the refrigerator, not on a counter or in a sink. Keeping raw meat and poultry refrigerated stops the growth of bacteria, which multiply rapidly at temperatures above 40 degrees F.

Don't mix raw meats with food items that are meant to be eaten raw. To prevent meat juices from contaminating other foods by dripping on them, keep them at the lowest refrigerator shelf when thawing them out. Also, use sealed containers or freezer bags to keep everything safe.

Before preparing raw meats and before you handle anything else afterward, you should make it a habit to wash your hands with soap and water. Do it thoroughly and pay special attention to the little crevices and the space under your fingernails.

Limit bacterial cross-contamination by keeping a separate set of platters, cutting boards, knives and other utensils only for raw meat. Wash and sanitize this equipment immediately after using them to prepare raw meat. Replace cutting boards when they develop cuts that could harbor bacteria.

Wash and sanitize everything that touches your food. The sink and countertops can be cleaned using hot, soapy water. A good, inexpensive cleaning solution can be made by mixing a tablespoon of chlorine bleach with a gallon of water. This solution has literally hundreds of uses in and around your kitchen.

Cooked meat should be checked with a meat thermometer. Bacteria die at around 165 degrees F and the inside of a roast should reach that crucial temperature. You can also inspect visually in the absence of a thermometer by slicing the meat and taking note of the juices that run out. If it is bloody, you should keep the oven going a little while longer.

In either case, while the meat or poultry is cooking, double-check to make sure that everything used to prepare the bird has been disinfected. An extra swipe with a hot, soapy cloth or diluted bleach could save a family from a nasty case of bacterial infection.


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