Welcome to this series of short videos on food safety. You will learn important things that you can do to protect your health and the health of your family and your community when handling, preparing and storing food. The four segments will help you better understand safe food handling practices first in the home, then while hunting and gathering, fishing, and finally at community events. Why is food safety important? If you eat or serve food that has been contaminated, you and your family can get sick. You could have stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever. Sometimes people may think that they have the stomach flu, but it’s actually food poisoning. Most people fully recover from food poisoning. However, if it’s not treated early, it can result in chronic health problems. Pregnant women, young children, the elderly, and those with a weakened immune system are more likely to have a severe illness. It’s important to me that I know that the food I’m serving my family is safe to eat. At first I wasn’t quite sure what safe food handling meant, but after learning about it, I know that there are small things we can all do to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities. There are many things you can do to help prevent food poisoning. Safe handling, preparation and storage are important to preventing harmful bacteria from growing in foods. Now let’s talk about things you can do. Clean, separate, cook, and chill. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds and rinse. This should be done before you start preparing food and after you’re done. You should also wash your hands when you are cooking and in between handling different foods. For an example, if you cut up raw meat and then want to move on to preparing your vegetables, after using the washroom or changing diapers, after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose, after touching objects that may contain germs like garbage, money and pets. It’s also important to make sure that cooking surfaces and utensils are clean and sanitized before using them. You can do this by washing all pots and pans, dishes and utensils in warm soapy water and rinsing thoroughly. Sanitizing work surfaces like cutting boards and colanders before and after preparing foods, especially raw meat, poultry, eggs or seafood. To sanitize use a mild bleach solution. You can make this by mixing one teaspoon of bleach with three cups of water. It is better to use paper towels or clean cloths to wipe and clean kitchen surfaces as sponges are harder to keep clean. It’s important to take steps to avoid contamination from one food source to the other. This is called cross contamination, and it can happen when harmful bacteria, parasites or viruses are transferred from a person, object or food preparation area onto the food. Cross contamination can be avoided by following these practices. When you shop, separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and their juices from other foods in the cart and in a grocery bag. When you store food keep raw meat, poultry and seafood on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator and in sealed containers to prevent their juices from dripping onto other food. When you prepare food keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and their juices separate from other foods. Use separate cutting boards for meats, fruits, vegetables and ready to eat foods. Do not reuse marinate of raw meat, poultry or seafood on cooked foods unless the marinades have been boiled. Use a spoon to taste food only once. Wash it with warm soapy water, rinse and sanitize before using it again. When you serve food you should always use clean utensils. Another important thing you can do to help keep your food safe is controlling the temperature of food, when you cook it, also when you reheat it. This prevents the growth of harmful bacteria. It’s best to use a thermometer to make sure that the food is properly cooked. You can’t just rely on the colour or smell. Insert the food thermometer in the thickest part of the food to check if it is cooked to the recommended temperature. You can find information on the recommended temperature at HealthyCanadians.gc.ca /FirstNationsFoodSafety. Wash and sanitize the food thermometer before and after use. When reheating food it is important to bring liquids to a boil like gravies, soups or sauces. Reheat other leftovers or cooked foods at a minimum internal temperature of 74 degrees Celsius. When reheating food in a microwave you should periodically stir, cover and rotate dishes of food. This will help prevent cold spots that may lead to the growth of bacteria. The last topic in this segment that we are covering is chilling food. Chilling is important because harmful bacteria can grow rapidly in food when it’s left in the danger zone of 4 to 60 degree Celsius. To reduce the chances of this happening, chill fresh, cooked or leftover food quickly and properly. This means that you should refrigerate or freeze cooked food within two hours, divide large amounts of food or big pieces of meat into smaller portions before cooling, place food on ice if a fridge is not available at the time, refrigerate hot foods in shallow pans or containers with space between them. This allows air to circulate, keeping the food at the right temperature. So don’t overload the fridge. Hot items should be first cooled at room temperature. Refrigerate once steaming stops. Freeze foods in airtight durable containers, food storage bags, freezer grade foil or freezer paper. Make sure your freezer is set at minus 18 degrees Celsius or lower and that your refrigerator is set at 4 degree Celsius or lower. Eat refrigerated leftovers within two to three days or freeze them for later use. Thawing or defrosting frozen food is another time when bacteria can become active and multiply rapidly and cause food poisoning. To avoid this from happening, you should thaw food in the refrigerator. This is especially important for any meat, including game meat, as well as poultry and seafood. When you do this place the food on a plate or a pan on the lowest shelf in the refrigerator so that the juices do not drip onto other foods. This will help avoid cross contamination. To thaw food in cold water, submerge the food under the water in a sealed container or bag, and change the water every 30 minutes until the food is thawed. You can also thaw food in the microwave. It is not recommended to refreeze food that has been thawed in the microwave or in cold water. The food must be cooked immediately. Well, that’s it for this segment. For more information on cleaning, separating, cooking and chilling food, visit HealthyCanadians.gc.ca /FirstNationsFoodSafety, or talk to your local environmental health officer or your health care provider. Watch the other segments for information on food safety when you hunt and gather food, fish, and when you prepare food for community events.