Re: common kitchen food prep safety
From: cynthia . e . carpenter (
Date: Thu, 20 Jan 2000 16:22:13 -0700 (MST)

I laughed when I got the digest today because I forwarded one of the first
messages in this thread to our Cambridge Cohousing email list and we've now got
parallel discussions going, with almost all the same themes!

I believe that it is really worth the effort to follow safe food prep guidelines
in coho communities.  I cooked at a summer camp many years ago and found that
the actual techniques were simple to follow once you knew and understood them.
Because we're a community, we can educate each other at meetings and while
cooking without a lot of difficulty.  And because we are a community, think
about what the effects of even a single food poisoning event would be.  How long
would it be before the community regained trust in common meals and the cooks at
that meal?  If someone became seriously ill or even (g-d forbid) died, would the
community ever recover?  We put child protection devices in outlets in the
common house, signs up in the parking garage about watching for cars, and smoke
detectors and fire alarms... I think preventing food poisoning is worth a
similar effort.

While the statistical risk of food poisoning may seem low, in our community (and
I think most others) we are feeding some of the most vulnerable demographic
groups, people who are most likely to become seriously ill or die from food
poisoning: the very young, the elderly and the immune suppressed.  We were able
to get free food prep safety training from our local Cooperative Extension
because our elderly members qualified us for special services.

The Coop Extension educator recommended that all dishes be washed in a
dishwasher on the hot cycle or be rinsed in a disinfecting solution by immersion
for one minute, followed by air drying.  She said we can skip the rinse and
towel dry pots and pans since they will be heated by cooking.  She recommended
that all kitchen prep surfaces be cleaned with a disinfecting solution after
each meal, and during meal prep after any contact with raw food, especially
poultry, meat, eggs, unwashed veggies or fruit and foods to which any member is
allergic.  The disinfecting solution they recommend for both types of cleaning
is 1 tablespoon of bleach in 1 gallon of water.  Bleach is indeed a toxic
chemical whose use should be minimized, but we haven't turned up any less toxic,
equally effective alternatives so far and the net impact of a common meal for 40
some people is usually only about 2 tablespoons of bleach.

Other recommendations included color coded cutting boards, as discussed here;
using paper towels instead of sponges (they are bacteria breeding grounds); and
making sure that all foods are properly heated and re-heated and cooled.  She
gave us some amazing stats about how long it takes for a large pot of stew to
cool if left at room temperature or even refrigerated and told us to divide it
up into smaller containers and use cold water baths to cool before

One last FYI, I don't have the reference handy, but the Boston Globe ran an
article a few months ago warning people *not* to use antibacterial soaps for
exactly the reason suspected here - families using them harbored much higher
populations of resistant bacteria.

- Cindy
Cambridge Cohousing

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