What we can learn about food safety from our garden

Gardening is one of my interests. I get quite excited at this time of year when plants begin to show the first signs of spring. In the past week I have seen some early, precocious, Cherry trees, the first daffodils and several Acacia trees all in flower, telling me that the seasons are on the turn.

Just like plants, bacteria can stop growing when conditions are unfavourable, but can ‘wake up’ when there’s a change in their environment. Bacteria need nutrients, moisture, adequate temperature and time to multiply.

bacteria under the microscopeWe use the same thing to our advantage to preserve foods by chilling or freezing them. The reduction of temperature slows down or stops bacteria multiplying so that foods remain safe and useable for longer. The important thing to remember is that these bacteria are not killed when chilled or frozen in foods. In fact, bacteria can start growing again quickly when storage temperatures are not controlled and the cold chain is broken. This is why it is important to keep our home fridge at a temperature of 5oC or less and to bring frozen and chilled foods home quickly from the shops and pack them away without delay.

Given the change of seasons, it is also a good time to think about giving our fridge a ‘spring clean’. Start by throwing out all foods that are past their ‘use by’ dates as this is the deadline date by which they have to be eaten. Foods that are still safe to eat can be stored in a cool box for a short time while you clean your fridge. To clean your fridge, just use warm soapy water or for stubborn dirt a baking soda solution works well too. Remember to put foods back in your fridge promptly and make sure raw and ready to eat foods are kept completely separate. You can also find out more about cleaning in our cleaning section.

Posted: 01/03/2013 10:42:42 by David McCleery
Filed under: Cleaning, Fridges, Storing

About Me

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David McCleery
I grew up in my family’s food business and have since enjoyed a career in a number of roles spanning food safety, consumer communication and public administration in the Agri-food sector. My wife and I have a busy household, with our little boy, girl and three dogs.