Freezing, Defrosting and Reheating – What’s Safe?
Basic foods that are classed as potentially hazardous, and require special attention when it comes to their handling and cooking include:
- Raw and cooked meat or food containing meat such as curries, pizza, pasta etc.
- Dairy products or food containing dairy products such as cheese sauces.
- Seafood or food containing seafood.
- Pre-prepared fruits and vegetables such as salads.
- Cooked rice and pasta.
- Food rich in protein or food containing protein-rich food such as eggs sandwich, beans and nuts, or food containing protein-rich food such as quiche.
- Honey can be dangerous for infants due to the dormant bacteria spores.
Cooling Food – How long does food last in the fridge?
Once again, a useful reminder of the maximum length of time commonly refrigerated foods will store for:
Time line of food storage in refrigerator
|Food||Maximum Length of Storage (days)|
|Meat – raw ground||1–2|
|Fish – raw||1–2|
|Meat – minced and offal||2–3|
|Meat – raw||3–5|
|Mixed vegetable dishes||3–5|
|Salads – mayo based||3–5|
|Cooked egg||1 week|
|Sausages – smoked||1 week|
|Fruit juices||1–2 weeks|
|Egg – raw||2–4 weeks|
|Bacon – unopened||2–4 weeks|
|Mayo – jar||2 months|
|Cheese – dry||2 months|
|Oil, margarine and fat||Variable (6 months)|
Source: Food Science Australia, adapted from International Institute of Refrigeration (1986)
Other storage tips include:
- Use the coldest part of the refrigerator for foods you want to keep longer.
- Always cover foods with strong odours such as fish and onion.
- Closed airtight containers are more effective than cling-wrap at keeping bugs at bay.
- Always place bought frozen food into the fridge as soon as you can.
- Store food in cool darkened cupboards.
- Store food in dark containers and dark areas.
- Keep food in containers that prevent moisture leaks in or out.
- Always use older products first and place fresher foods to the back of the shelf or fridge.
What is the safest way to cool food down?
The cooling process after cooking is often when bugs start to grow; this generally occurs between 60°C and 50°C. The longer food takes to cool down, the greater the opportunity for nasties to multiply. Food should be cooled as quickly as possible, for example in less than two hours after cooking.
Cooling methods to improve food safety include:
- Once food has stopped steaming, place it in the fridge.
- Cut food into smaller pieces to speed up the cooling-down process.
- Use appropriately sized containers, for example, shallow containers for foods that are liquid or pourable.
- Create an opportunity for air to flow around the food (while covered).
Reheating Food – What is the safest way to reheat food?
The problem with reheating food is the exact opposite process from cooking. So remember:
- As the food heats up, the bugs again get to work.
- It is not until the food reaches 60°C that they stop.
- Food that is partially reheated and doesn’t get to 60°C is more likely to contain bugs.
- Once again, the longer this process of reheating to 60°C takes, the more the bugs can thrive.
Frozen Food – Is it okay to cook frozen foods?
- Many foods can be cooked from frozen such as frozen fruit, vegetables and small parcels of foods.
- Large cuts of meats must be thawed first; this is best done in the refrigerator over 24 to 48 hours to prevent bacterial growth (as it is thawing in a low temperature in which bacteria cannot spoil food).
- Frozen meat that is required at short notice can be thawed under cool water (but think of the water shortage too) or in the microwave (still wrapped).
- Meat that remains partially frozen should be cooked at a higher temperature (71°C or greater) for safety.
- Once a food is thawed it should not be re-frozen, although it can be chilled for up to 48 hours in the refrigerator.
Thaw food in the fridge! Don’t allow food to thaw slowly in warm temperatures, remember temperatures of 60°C and lower are the danger zones for bugs!
How long do foods last in the freezer?
Effect of storage temperature on storage life of frozen foods
|Product||Storage Life||in Months|
|at -12 ^o^C||at -18 ^o^C|
|Raspberries, strawberries, raw||5||24|
|Peaches, apricots, cherries, raw||4||18|
|Green asparagus, blanched||3||12|
|Green beans, blanched||4||15|
|Brussels sprouts, blanched||6||15|
|Prawns, cooked and peeled||2||5|
|Fatty fish, glazed, raw||3||5|
|Lean fish, single fillets, raw||6||9|
|Source: Food Science Australia, adapted from International Institute of Refrigeration (1986)|
Tips on cleanliness and safety
- Wash fruit and scrub vegetables before use or before refrigerating.
- Use hot soapy water to wash your hands.
- Use appropriate cutting boards, for example a wooden one made from hard wood are best.
- Do not cross-contaminate foods, for example raw meats, poultry or eggs should not be placed together.
- Never use your fingers.
- Keep hair away from food.
- Reduce the food’s exposure to anyone who may be unwell.
- Wash sponges in the machine and replace regularly.
- Clean up food spills with paper towels and dispose immediately.
- If you are at all suspicious of food, best bet is to discard it, don’t take a risk.
This information has been provided by Leanne Cooper from Sneakys baby and child nutrition. Leanne is a qualified nutritionist and mother of two very active boys.
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