Simply put, HACCP is a system that is designed to keep us from getting sick from the food we eat. When food safety guidelines are followed we can enjoy all the bounty that our world has to offer. But if there is a misstep somewhere along the line of food production, preparation or service, then we will suffer the consequences. Most often it will manifest as a slight upset stomach, or an uncomfortable feeling in our digestive system. Usually we're better in a day or two so we don't give it any more thought. If a little upset stomach is the worst you've experienced then count your blessings. But if you've lived through a more serious case of food poisoning you know all too well that it's about as sick as you ever want to be. The most severe cases of food poisoning can result in death. Large scale recalls for spinach, melons, peanuts, and lettuces, to name a few, contaminated with e coli, salmonella, and listeria seem to be happening with more frequency. Or possibly the USDA is better qualified to identify and control sources of contamination than they were a few years ago. It wasn't until January 1998 that the first HACCP- based control systems were implemented in the largest meat and poultry plants. Smaller plants were phased in by January 2000. Now, upscale restaurants with creative chefs who enthusiastically take on the challenge of making their own cured meats and sausages are required to have an approved HACCP plan in place before selling their products to their customers. They are under the same strict guidelines of the Food Safety Inspection Service division of the USDA as are large commercial meat producing plants.
The Bossy Chef has had extensive training in HACCP procedures as have most professionally trained chefs and kitchen personnel. As a restaurant manager in one of my previous lives, I too was trained in proper food preparation and handling techniques. It is valuable training that carries over into our day to day lives in our home kitchens. And this is what I'm writing about today. Easy steps to follow that will ensure that the food you prepare at home won't cause your family and friends unnecessary and unpleasant side effects.
Each year, 48 million people in the U.S. get sick from contaminated food. Common culprits include bacteria, parasites and viruses. Harmful bacteria are the most common cause of food borne illness. Foods may have some bacteria on them when you buy them. Raw meat may become contaminated during slaughter. Fruits and vegetables may become contaminated when they are growing or when they are processed.
But it can also happen in your kitchen if you leave food out for more than 2 hours at room temperature.
The Bossy Chef is completely anal when it comes to this. Any food that is not dished up when the meal is served goes into the refrigerator, immediately. More importantly, the food is refrigerated uncovered until it is completely chilled down. This is one of Chefy's pet peeves and we've seen people do it time and again. We were visiting our son and his family in Idaho recently. His beautiful wife Missy, whom I adore, makes a stand out potato salad. She made a large bowl one afternoon then covered the still warm potato salad and put it in the fridge. Naturally, I couldn't keep my mouth shut so I explained in my most conciliatory voice why it would be better to put the salad in the fridge without the Tupperware top. She's well aware of our food fetishes and foibles so she laughed and let me have my way. I really do love this girl!
The fact is, when you cover food that is still warm it creates the perfect environment for harmful bacteria to grow. Food needs to be chilled down quickly, and covering the food allows it to stay at an unsafe temperature for far too long. Cover the food after it's completely chilled, it'll seem strange and will take some getting used to but it is much safer.
There are several more important food safety steps. In an effort to keep this column brief, I won't go into them here but if you'll click on the link below you can download an excellent reference guide for basic food handling safety. The guide was prepared by the USDA and includes a cold storage food chart and a hot line number in case of suspected food borne illness.
So what are you eating this summer? We've been chowing down on heirloom tomatoes and those amazing Palisade peaches. Can't get enough of either one. My favorite guilty pleasure is to grill slices of crusty bread that has been brushed with a little olive oil, top with a thick slice of tomato and a big scoop of Burrata cheese, drizzle with more olive oil and a sprinkling of good salt. Killer! I dare you to eat just one! Paired with a delicious bottle of Rose', summer just doesn't get any better.
Thanks for reading, and as always I hope you think of me if you or someone you know is considering buying or selling a home. I love and appreciate your referrals, Thank you so much and happy eating!