When it comes to healthy eating, making smart food choices is just one-half of the equation. The other half is using safe procedures for food preparation, serving and storage. Food that is mishandled can lead to foodborne illnesses. And because bacteria are everywhere, cleanliness is a major factor in preventing foodborne illness.
There are Four Steps for Food Safety – Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill:
- Wash your hands. To do the job properly, wet hands with warm, running water. Then apply soap. Rub hands together vigorously to make lather and scrub all surfaces. Continue for 20 seconds, then dry thoroughly.
- Wash surfaces and utensils after each use. Bacteria can be spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, and counter tops.
- Use paper towels or clean cloths to wipe up kitchen surfaces or spills. Wash cloths often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
- Use soap and hot water to effectively get rid of bacteria. Wash well and often.
- As an extra precaution, especially when working with raw meat, sanitize surfaces and utensils afterward with a solution of one tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Flood the surface with the bleach solution and allow it to stand for several minutes. Rinse with clear water and air-dry or pat dry with clean paper towels.
- Wash fruits and veggies – but not meat, poultry, or eggs!
- Even if you plan to peel fruits and veggies—it’s important to wash them first because bacteria can spread from the outside to the inside as you cut or peel them.
- However, washing raw meat and poultry can actually help bacteria spread, because their juices may splash onto (and contaminate!) your sink and countertops.
- In addition, commercial eggs are washed before sale. Any extra handling of the eggs, such as washing, may actually increase the risk of cross-contamination, especially if the shell becomes cracked.
- Wash dish towels. Dishcloths should be cleaned often. Use the hot water cycle of your washing machine. Or, consider using paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces. Then, throw the germs away with the towels!
Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs away from other foods in the shopping cart, grocery bags, refrigerator and on preparation surfaces.
Use a food thermometer to make sure all foods are cooked or reheated to the proper temperature. For quick and more accurate results, use an instant-read digital thermometer, not a large-dial food thermometer.
Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, seafood and other perishables within two hours of cooking or purchasing. When reheating, use a thermometer to make sure leftovers reach 165°F.
In addition to these four steps for food safety, always keep pets off kitchen counters and away from food preparation.