Salmonella and E. coli in spinach, peanut butter, and cantaloupe have all made headlines. Nearly one in six Americans will experience food poisoning this year; however, the majority of food safety issues occur in homes, not on farms or in processing plants. How can you keep your family safe? Simple: clean, separate, cook, and chill. Here’s even a song to get you in the mood to find out more!
Clean hands and surfaces! Be sure to wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and wash cutting boards, dishes, and surfaces with hot soapy water before handling food. Mixing one teaspoon of bleach with each quart of water used to clean surfaces can up your safety even more. You also may want to consider using paper towels to clean up kitchen messes. The next best alternative? Cloth towels that are washed very frequently in the hot cycle in the washing machine.
Avoid cross-contamination! Use separate cutting boards for raw meats and fresh produce. Don’t place cooked food back on plates that once held uncooked meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs, and be sure to separate raw meats from the rest of your groceries in your cart and in your refrigerator.
Did you know one in four hamburgers turns brown before it is cooked to a safe temperature? Be sure to use a thermometer to check the internal temperatures of meats. The chart below provides the proper temperatures for safely prepared foods. You should also be sure to keep hot foods hot- hot foods on a buffet line should be kept at 140 degrees or higher. They’ll taste better and stay safe! Microwaves can be extra tricky- be sure to check foods for cold spots!
Make sure your refrigerator is consistently 32-40 degrees and that the proper foods are stored in it. Keep all perishable foods chilled until serving time and place containers of cold food on ice for serving at buffets. Be sure to thaw food in the refrigerator or the microwave, never at room temperature. Don’t over-stuff the refrigerator and divide leftovers into small containers so that the can chill quickly.
The list of ways to keep your family’s food safe is definitely a long one, but most are simple methods and all are more pleasant than a bout of food poisoning!