Wash Hands and Surfaces Often
According to food safety experts, bacteria can spread quickly and easily throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, knives, sponges and counter tops. In order to prevent this from occurring:
- Wash hands in hot soapy water before preparing food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers and handling pets. For the most effective results, use warm water to moisten hands and then apply soap. Rub hands together for 20 seconds before rinsing thoroughly.
- Wash cutting boards, knives, utensils and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before going on to the next one.
- Use plastic or other non-porous cutting boards. Cutting boards should be run through the dishwasher – or washed in hot soapy water after each use.
- Using paper towels instead of clothes to clean up kitchen surfaces is a safer practice. If using cloth towels, wash them often in the hot cycle of the washing machine.
Don't Contaminate - Separate
- Cross-contamination is how bacteria spreads from one food product to another. This is especially true for raw meat, poultry and seafood. Keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.
- Raw meat, poultry, and seafood should also be separated from other food in the shopping cart.
- Store raw meat, poultry and seafood on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so juices wont drip onto other foods.
- If possible, use one cutting board for raw meat products and another for fruit and vegetables.
- The importance of washing hands and surfaces cannot be overemphasized.
- Don’t let juices from raw meat, poultry or seafood come in contact with cooked foods or foods that will be eaten raw, such as fruits or salad ingredients.
- Thaw foods in the refrigerator, never at room temperature. As an alternative, use cold running water or a microwave oven.
- When using a microwave oven to thaw food, cook it immediately after thawing.
- Never place cooked or grilled food on an unwashed plate which has held raw meat, poultry or seafood.
- Many believe that once food has been cooked, all the bacteria have been killed. Actually, the possibility of bacterial growth increases after cooking, because the drop in temperature allows bacteria to thrive. This is why keeping cooked food warmed to the right temperature is critical for food safety.
- Use a meat thermometer to determine if your meat, poultry, or casserole has reached a safe internal temperature. (Please refer to the “United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service: Safe Minimum Internal Temperature Chart")
- Never partially cook meat to later finish on the grill or in the oven.
- When microwaving foods, use microwave-safe containers. Cover, rotate, and allow for standing time. This contributes to thorough cooking.
- Keep hot foods above 140℉ (60℃) and cold foods below 40℉ (4.4℃).
- Choose a serving style which will allow food to be served as quickly as possible, to maintain safe, desirable temperatures [below 40℉ (4.4℃) or above 140℉ (60℃)].
- Never leave food which requires refrigeration after opening, raw or cooked, at room temperature any longer than necessary-never longer than 2 hours.
- Certain foods such as apples and bananas are shelf stable at room temperature.
For more information on shelf-stable foods please visit the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service page on “Shelf-Stable Food Safety”
- A common food handling mistake is letting cooked food cool before putting it in the fridge. Illness causing bacteria can grow in perishable cooked foods within two hours if left unrefrigerated. You should refrigerate perishable cooked foods within 2 hours (or within 1 hour if the temperature is over 90˚F)
Stay out of the Danger Zone
Food can cause foodborne illnesses when the temperature of the food rises to create conditions that are favorable to bacterial growth.
The Danger Zone refers to the most dangerous temperature for foods, between 40°F (4.4°C) and 140°F (60°C).
This range of temperature is dangerous because it's below the temperature at which heat destroys bacteria (above 160°F/ 71.1°C), yet above the cooling range (below 40°F/ 4.4°C ) where the growth of bacteria is slowed.
Why So Dangerous?
A single bacterium can multiply to trillions in just twenty-four hours when between 40°F (4.4°C ) and 140°F (60°C ). This is because bacteria double approximately every twenty minutes under the right conditions: food, moisture, oxygen and warm temperature. Many foods, with their rich supply of nutrients and moist quality, offer the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. You don't want to spur this bacteria growth by providing a warm temperature as well."
Chart Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Food Safety Lunch Tips
- Select foods with a long shelf life such as canned fruit, puddings with pop top lids, peanut butter, crackers, fresh fruit, bottled water, and juice boxes preferably containing 100% percent fruit juice.
- Moist, high-protein, and/or low acid foods pose the greatest food safety risk if not packed properly. These include milk or milk products, eggs, meats, poultry, fish and shellfish. Avoid using mayonnaise or mayonnaise type dressings. Single serve packets of mayonnaise are safer.
- Cracked eggs should be discarded because bacteria and mold can penetrate.
- Prepare box lunches the night before and store them in the refrigerator until it’s time to go.
- Frozen bottled water and juice boxes offer additional cooling. These items will usually thaw by lunchtime.
- Wrap cold foods tightly in waterproof plastic bags or wrap and pack them next to a frozen ice pack or frozen juice box.
- Store lunch boxes and bags out of direct sunlight and away from radiators.
- Wash lunch boxes or snacks and freezer ice packs with hot soapy water, then air dry.