Refrigerator full of food
Refrigerator full of food belchonock

Tips to avoid home grown food poisioning

WHEN planning to grow your own salad items, the Food Safety Information Council has some great tips to avoid food poisoning from your own produce.

Where to plant

  • Avoid anywhere near rubbish piles or bins that can contain chemicals that could leak into the garden or attract vermin.
  • Avoid planting nedar old buildings where soil may have been contaminated with lead paint scrapings.
  • Provide protection against domestic and wild pests.
  • Watch for insect or other animal invasions, and discard any damaged crops.

Pets and chooks

  • Keep all your pets, including chooks, away from your garden so they can't poop on the food plants.
  • Beware of trees and bushes overhanging your garden as birds might 'bless' your veggies.

Compost

  • Your garden need lots of nutrients, but make sure the manure or compost you use is well composted as the heat generated by the composting process not only kills weed seeds, it also helps kill food poisoning bacteria.
  • Prevent access to your compost bin by vermin and pests like mice and rats, which can spread disease.
  • Don't compost meat scraps which can attract vermin.

Watering

  • Don't store grey water as microbes will grow in it.
  • Don't use washing up or dishwasher water as it has too much fat and other solids which can be bad for plant growth.

Pesticides and herbicides

  • Minimise pesticides and herbicides, and follow the instructions for use.

Cleaning fruit and vegetables

  • Scrub vegetables in water or with sanitisers to remove loose soil and any bacteria and viruses, or remove the skin.
  • Be aware bacteria and viruses can be protected in cuts and crevices, so even after washing, at times there can still be contamination present.

Storing produce

  • You don't have to store most whole fruit and vegetables in the fridge for safety.
  • Brush off visible soil and wash under running water, and dry any fruit or vegetables.
  • Wash your hands, knife, peeler, and chopping board before you handle and prepare other foods.
  • Once whole vegetables and fruit are cut up or if their skin is damaged, they should be covered and stored in the fridge where they are chilled and can't be contaminated by other food especially raw meat, chicken or seafood.
  • Refrigeration slows the growth of food poisoning bacteria such as salmonella and pathogenic E.coli on cut surfaces and the cut fruit can be stored for two to three days, but it won't stop the growth of listeria.

Freezing

  • Fruits and vegetables can be frozen by cutting up, and then blanching them by dipping them into boiling water. This locks in the colour, flavour and texture, and it can kill most food poisoning bacteria.
  • Spread in a single layer on trays and freeze. Then pack them in smaller portions for further storage.
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables can safely be stored for a number of months, although there can be a loss in nutrient value and quality over time.

Home bottling or canning

  • Be vigilant if you bottle excess fruit and vegetables because of the risk of botulism.
  • Stick to the high acid fruits such as pears, apples and stone fruit - acid (low pH) prevents the growth of the bacteria that causes botulism.
  • If you bottle tomatoes, mango, paw paw, banana or any other tropical fruit ,you must add some citric acid.
  • Vegetables can only be safely bottled if bottled in vinegar.
  • If you want to put the vegetables in oil or flavoured oils, you can keep them refrigerated for up to 10 days. If you want to bottle them, you need to acidify the vegetables and any fresh herbs first.

After gardening

  • Always wash your hands with soap and running water and dry thoroughly as soil is likely to contain bacteria.
  • Use a nailbrush to remove dirt from your fingernails.

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