Every day food safety
Don’t get food poisoning from your home kitchen.
When it comes time to cooking a meal, there are procedures to remember to ensure we consume safe food. Cross-contamination in the kitchen is a major issue and needs to be taken seriously, as it can cause illnesses if one isn’t too careful.
Did you know that the way food is put into the refrigerator is very important? Raw meats, poultry and seafood always need to be placed on the bottom shelves in tightly sealed containers. Fruits, vegetables, mixed salads and other ready-to-eat foods should be placed on the top shelf. Why? Juices from meats could potentially leak and drip onto the foods below. If lettuce leaves have chicken juice on them, they are contaminated and could make you very sick.
When you’re preparing a meal and you need to thaw a frozen item, there are three safe ways:
- Place the item in the refrigerator until it thaws
- Microwave the item and finish cooking immediately
- Rinse with cold, running water until thawed
Thawing food in hot water is not safe because there may be bacteria present that will multiply when it has reached a temperature warmer than 40 degrees Fahrenheit. This is also why it is unsafe to thaw food on the countertop.
When preparing a meal, do not forget to wash your hands. The proper way is to wet your hands, lather with soap between fingers, back of hands and under fingernails. Then scrub for 10 to 15 seconds. Once finished, rinse and dry using a single use paper towel or a clean towel. The process should take about 20 seconds.
Marinating meat is a great way to add flavor, but be sure you marinate in the refrigerator and not on the countertop. This will prevent bacteria from multiplying. Do not use the original marinade from the thawed meat once the meat is cooked, as it may contain bacteria. It is fine to make a new marinade to use, or save some from the initial batch to use separately on your cooked meat.
If you’re making a mixed dish with meat and veggies, use two different cutting boards and knives or clean and sanitize them between uses. If you notice that your cutting board is worn and has deep grooves, it should be replaced. Bacteria can grow in the deep grooves and spread onto your food as well as the utensils. Disinfect your countertop after cleaning with a sanitizing solution – one teaspoon of bleach per one quart of water. Don’t forget that anytime you touch raw meat, you need to wash your hands before beginning another task.
After eating the delicious meal you prepared, it is equally important to treat the leftovers safely and store them properly. If you refrigerate them, store in an airtight container and do not keep for more than four days. If you decide to freeze them, they will maintain their flavor for about four months. Michigan State University Extension recommends that you label and date your food so you don’t forget what it is or how long it has been kept.
There are many ways that bacteria can grow and flourish in your kitchen and your food. It is crucial that you take the proper precautions to keep you and your family safe. More resources can be found on MSU Extension’s website or at usda.gov. Happy cooking!