Keeping Food Safe – Part Two

Hygiene and sanitation


In our first program on keeping food safe, we talked about the importance of keeping your business clean. We said that it was important to: wash your hands, keep all working surfaces and dishes clean and disinfected, use clean water and keep food out of the reach of animals. Today, we will talk about some other things that food sellers can do to keep their food safe and stop it from spoiling.

You can kill the microbes and enzymes that cause food to spoil if you cook food at a high temperature. So, follow this rule: always cook foods until every part is thoroughly hot. Heat liquids until they boil before you serve them.

Now you have cooked your food to make it safe. But how can you make sure that it stays safe?

First, never let cooked food touch raw food. When raw food touches cooked food, the microbes in raw food can travel to the cooked food. If raw food does touch cooked food, reheat the cooked food immediately to kill the microbes. If you touch raw food with your hands or with a utensil, wash and disinfect your hands and utensils thoroughly before you touch any cooked food or any areas where you will be working with food. And remember to always put cooked food on a clean plate.

People who sell food in stalls or restaurants prepare much of their food ahead of time. Food can sometimes sit for several hours before a customer buys it. How can you keep this food safe?

If food will be sitting for only a few minutes, it will stay safe if you cover it. But if cooked food will be sitting for a longer time, there are two ways to keep it safe.

Either keep it very hot – above 60 degrees Celsius. Or store it in a cool place. If possible, keep it in a refrigerator or a refrigerated display case. If you don’t have a refrigerator, here are some other ways to keep food cool. You can put food in a basket, and hang the basket from the ceiling in a place where wind will keep the food cool. You might also keep food in containers which you place in running water. Or you might simply put food in the cool shade of a tree or a building. But it is important to understand that, unless you keep food very hot or use a refrigerator, you will not be able to keep it safe for more than a few hours.

Here’s another way to keep fruit, vegetables and grains safe for a few days. Wrap small amounts of the food in banana or taro leaves. If you want to use banana leaves you will have to wilt them slightly before you use them. You can do this if you hold them over a fire. When they are wilted, wrap food in them. Don’t forget to change the leaves before they shrivel. Taro leaves rot more quickly than banana leaves, and so must be replaced sooner. You might be able to find other large leaves in your neighbourhood to wrap food in. Fruits and vegetables will keep for a few days when you wrap them, while beans will be safe for one and a half to two weeks.

What about left-overs? What do you do with the cooked food which is left at the end of the day? You should put all left-overs in a cool place. Again, a refrigerator is best. Both cooked food and raw food stay safe longer when you cool them as quickly as possible. If you do not cool foods immediately, microbes can grow rapidly and cause food to spoil. Put food in a refrigerator if you have one.

If you cannot cool cooked food quickly, you should throw it away, or put it in a compost pile. But do not put food which contains meat or seafood in a compost pile – this will attract animals.

So, let’s review. To keep food safe, you should

  • wash your hands often and keep your stall or restaurant clean.
  • Cook food at a high temperature.
  • Keep cooked and raw food separate.
  • Make sure that all food is kept cool and covered.

If you do these things, your food will be safe enough for everyone to eat and enjoy.



  • This script was written by Vijay Cuddeford, researcher/writer at the Developing Countries Farm Radio Network, and a student of sustainable agriculture at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. It was reviewed by Robert G. McQuillan, Public Health Consultant, Willowdale, Ontario, Canada and Gerry T. Lawrence, Senior Public Health Inspector, North York, Ontario, Canada.

Information sources

  • Seminar on Safe Food Preparation, SCS NEWS, No.45, January – December 1995, pages 4-5. Published by Society of Christian Service, C.D.T. 58, 96000 Sibu Sarawak, East Malaysia
  • Tips on food protection – food – borne illness, Charlotte M. Dunn, Fiji Food and Nutrition Newsletter, Vol. 4, No.4, January 1984.Published by the National Food and Nutrition Committee,Box 2223, Government Buildings, Suva, Fiji
  • Golden rules for safe food preparation, Dialogue on Diarrhoea, No.56,March/May 1994, page 3.Published by Appropriate Health Resources and Technologies Action Group (AHRTAG), 1 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9SG,United Kingdom
  • Keep it cool: quality maintenance of vegetables and fruit during storage, AT SOURCE, Vol. 19, No.2, June 1991, pages 19-22. Published by AT SOURCE, P.O. Box 41, 6700 Wageningen, The Netherlands
  • Organic way of keeping fruits, vegetables fresh, Santinig, Vol. 5: 229,March 13, 1987, page 14.Published by the Phillippine Federation of Rural Broadcasters, 4th floor, NIA building, EDSA, Quezon City, Phillippines
  • Workshop on Food Preservation and Storage: proceedings of a workshop in Kibaha, Tanzania from 21 July – 8 August, 1975. Published by the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania ECA/FAO UNICEF
  • Keeping food safe, Nyam News, December Nos. 1 & 2, 1996. Published by the Carribean Food and Nutrition Institute Information Service, P.O. Box 140, University of the West Indies Campus, Kingston 7, Jamaica