Cooking food is a very old way to make food safe and palatable to eat.
Raw meat and some raw vegetables and pulses can contain pathogenic (disease causing) bacteria and viruses or toxins that are destroyed when heated.
Cooking food kills bacteria
It kills them all, or it reduces them to a safe level. There has been a trend recently to serve minced beef burgers, and similar dishes, rare or undercooked. This does not allow time for the cooking process to reduce the bacteria to a safe level. Heating food through the “danger zone” and to at least 70 C for 2 minutes, or the equivalent, is recommended by the FSA.
- In order to cook food safely, the time and temperature at which the food stays at the temperature is important. A lot of businesses will target a temperature of 80C as this ensures the food is cooked thoroughly. Alternative time temperature combinations are below.
- 60°C for 45 minutes
- 65°C for 10 minutes
- 70°C for 2 minutes
- 75°C for 30 seconds
- 80°C for 6 seconds
Food poisoning and spoilage bacteria thrive between 8C and 63C. this is known as the Danger Zone. Some bacteria can multiply below 8C slowly, and some can survive temperatures above 75C. The ones that can survive above 75C contain spores. Spores act as seeds, and will lie dormant until favourable conditions arise, sometimes for hundreds of years. FInd out more about microbiology here.
Did you know that most frozen fruit and veg needs to be cooked prior to eating?
Pulses and beans
Make sure that you follow the cooking instructions for dried pulses and beans. Some contain toxins that require a detailed approach to preparation. These include red kidney beans, they need to be soaked and boiled before eating as they carry a toxin (phytohemagglutinin) which can make you very ill. Using a slow cooker and not following the instructions can increase the level of toxin.