The storage and handling of food is a key safety and sanitation issue in any kitchen. As you might expect, the foodservice industry has developed a host of useful, common sense rules, many of which you can, and should, follow at home.
Meet FAT TOM
The Advanced Food Safety Training manual by Traincan Inc., a leader in the field, suggests we live by the acronym FAT TOM…
F – Is for Foods high in Protein. These may already be contaminated by some bacterium or another. Proper storage is essential to restraining bacterial multiplication.
A – Is for Acidity. Foods high in acid naturally discourage bacterial growth. Likewise, foods high in salt. Although we’re not supposed to be eating those. Nevertheless…
T – Is for Time. Limit the time that uncooked foods sit out at room temperature. Always keep foods outside the Danger Zone (4C / 40 F to 40 C / 140 F). This ensures that bacterial growth will be minimized in raw or refrigerated food and that most bacteria present will be destroyed by heat in the cooking process.
T – Is for Temperature. Always store food or hold for service at temperatures well outside the Danger Zone. Many bacteria can double in numbers every twenty minutes or so in ideal conditions, creating a population large enough to make someone sick.
O – Is for Oxygen. Most of the bacteria that cause foodborne illness are of the “aerobic” variety. That is, they need oxygen to survive and multiply. All foods should be tighly wrapped or tightly covered for storage to limit oxygen exposure. In addition to bacterial concerns, oxygen can cause foods to degrade or lose their colour or flavour.
M – Is for Moisture. Along with oxygen, moisture can promote bacterial growth and decomposition in foods. One way to reduce the action of water is to freeze foods. Dehydrating is another, ages old, way of preserving food by reducing water action. Jerky, anyone?
Exceptions and Additions to FAT TOM
Freezing and Refrigeration do not always kill all bacteria present.
Tight wrapping for storage can also help preserve desired moisture levels and textures of foods.
Although the official Danger Zone for food temperatures is 40 F to 140 F, I’ve always erred on the side of caution. I consider the Danger Zone to be between 35 F and 145 F.
Always Reheat foods which have been prepared in advance to at least 165 F for service.
Always Hold hot foods at a minimum temperature of 145 F to ensure they will remain safe to eat for a reasonable period of time.
On a buffet, serving bowls and pans should hold only as much of a given food as you expect to be consumed within one hour, max. Forty-five minutes is actually a safer guideline, there. Always take away all food that has been sitting out and replace with fresh food. Never mix “old” and “new” food in a the same serving pan.
For Buffet Salads, always use a metal bowl nested in ice for display and follow the same handling guidelines as for hot food, above. Temperatures for cold food service should never enter the freezing zone, on the low end, and should never exceed 40 F.
That’s enough to chew on for now…
Next time, we’ll look at your fridge and freezer and how to get the most out these essential appliances in your personal food safety program!
~ Maggie J.