A DOCTOR has revealed the most common mistakes that are causing people batch-cooking to get sick.
Many Brits are shunning takeaways and meals out in a bid to save money amid the cost-of-living crisis.
People across the country are facing the worst cost-of-living crisis in years as energy, fuel and food prices soar.
As a result, batch-cooking or meal prep for work and school has become more popular than ever with budgets tightening.
It involves preparing a set number of meals for the rest of the week by cooking big, economical pots of food to store and use later.
And while this is an excellent long-term money saving strategy, there are some important rules to follow with your food so you don’t get ill.
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Dr Matthew Gilmour, a microbiologist at the Quadram Institute, formerly the Institute of Food Research, told Mail Online that tuna, cheese and pasta are all fine to freeze and reheat but timing is important.
Norwich based Dr Gilmour says that many are guilty of leaving leftovers on the kitchen counter for too long before batching it up into Tupperware and freezing it.
Leaving food cooling and resting at room temperature for three hours allows bacteria in the dish to multiply to harmful levels.
Dr Gilmour said: “After food is cooked and cooled down, package it up and get it in the freezer as quickly as possible — within two hours.”
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He recommends covering it with foil while it cools, preventing cross-contamination from flies for example.
Last year, there were 4,369 recorded cases of food poisoning in England and Wales, according to the UK Health Security Agency, but most cases go unreported.
A study in 2018 by the Food Standards Agency estimated that there are in fact 2.4 million cases per year.
And the trend for batch-cooking may well push that figure higher.
Food hygiene consultant Sylvia Anderson who is based in London adds that another step you should take is transferring the food to a new dish.
Sylvia says that leaving it in a hot dish means it takes longer to cool down, allowing time for any bacteria present to grow.
She said: “I’m amazed when I see people on Instagram [the social media platform] placing five-day batch-cooked portions in the fridge.
“In the hospitality industry, pre-cooked food is kept in the fridge for only three days. After that it becomes unsafe — so it’s best to freeze the other two portions.”
Another key mistake that people make is to store things in the freezer for too long, she says.
“In the industry, we say pre-prepared meals should be frozen for no more than a month.”
Sylvia suggests labelling foods with a date to keep tabs on how long they’ve been in the freezer.
But Dr Gilmour warns that you shouldn’t assume that freezing kills bugs.
Microbes are merely dormant and reanimate once thawed. This means you should also take care when defrosting food from your freezer.
Dr Gilmour said: “If you leave something on the side to defrost at room temperature, there’s an increased risk that microbes will multiply.
“But most organisms can’t grow below 4C — the temperature in your fridge.”
Microwave defrosting can speed up the process, but its important to stir halfway through.
Once it’s safely defrosted, reheat in the oven or microwave, but ensure the dish is piping hot all the way through.
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Frozen raw meat should never be defrosted in the microwave, though so it’s best left to thaw slowly in the fridge.
And don’t be tempted to run the meat under warm water as any microbes present could contaminate the sink and nearby utensils.