We are all becoming more environmentally aware but sometimes messages on energy and water saving contradict good food safety advice. Remember that being ill is a drain on the economy and not something we would wish on our family and friends.
Saving water is important but so is washing your hands or fruit and vegetables under running water as this ensures that bacteria and viruses are washed away. If you wash in a bowl of water this just creates a microbiological soup that may re-contaminate the food or your hands. You can catch the water in a bowl or bucket and put it on the garden. Remember not to put ‘grey’ water from the house, such as the washing machine water, on to fruit, vegetables or herbs. Don’t store grey water in the garden as microbes will grow in it and don’t use water from the washing up or dishwasher as it has too much fat and other solids which can be bad for plant growth.
It is great to grow your own food as it tastes good, it is fresh and it helps our children understand where food comes from. You can still get food poisoning or contamination from your own produce but this can be avoided with bit of careful planning.
Firstly don’t locate your garden near any rubbish which can contain chemicals or attract vermin. Be careful about locating edible plants near the house where there may be buried builders rubble especially if you have an older building where the soil could have been contaminated by scrapings of lead paint many years ago.
Make sure the compost you use is well composted, this not only kills any weed seeds but also any bacteria. Cover your compost heap so that it doesn’t attract vermin, like mice and rats, which can spread disease. Never use manure on food plants that hasn’t been thoroughly composted as it will be contaminated with bacteria.
Pets and other animals shouldn’t be able to access your vegetable garden as you don’t want the local cats using it as a litter tray. You can build a simple fence out of chicken wire to keep them out.
Using garden chemicals is safe as long as you stick to the instructions. Use exactly the amount recommended on the label and don’t spray other areas of the garden in windy conditions in case the spray drifts onto fruit and vegetables. Some chemicals will have withholding periods before you eat any fruit or vegetables so that there are not residues in the final food.
Do use re-useable shopping bags but still make sure that meat or chicken is wrapped in a plastic bag and placed where it can’t drip on other foods. Wash your reusable bags if they get dirty. Avoid putting ready to eat fruit or vegetables directly into a shopping trolley as children may have been sitting in or standing on them.
Don’t be tempted to save electricity by making your fridge warmer. It must run at 5°C or below to make sure bacteria don’t grow.