New Year’s resolutions related to food safety

Still pondering on a resolution? Consider making changes on how you handle food and your habits in the kitchen to prevent foodborne illness.

Many of us make New Year’s resolutions at the end of an old year or the beginning of a new year; usually they are for self-improvement, healthier lifestyle or something along those lines. Have you ever considered making resolutions to improve handling food or preventing foodborne illness? Think about some of these easy changes you could make to prevent foodborne illness in 2015, a few small changes or a purchase of a small tool could make all the difference in the world.

  1.  Utilize a food thermometer when cooking. A food thermometer is one of best tools you can have in your kitchen, it isn’t just for the grill area it should be used in the kitchen too. Do not rely on the “color” of a product to determine if it is done. Studies have shown that this is not a safe indicator. Cooking ground meat to 165 degrees Fahrenheit can prevent potentially harmful bacteria from making one sick. The thermometer is also useful when reheating foods to determine if they have been heated to a safe temperature.
  2. Wash hands. Handwashing should always be done prior to prepping food. Did you know as you work on different steps in your recipe you may need to stop and wash your hands again? If you handle raw meat, crack eggs open or are interrupted and leave the work area, it is very important to take a minute and wash hands with warm, soapy water before returning to your task. Once the recipe is completed it is good to once again wash hands as you complete clean up. This may seem excessive, but you are preventing potential cross-contamination problems by taking these steps. Germs are everywhere – some of the highest concentration spots in our homes are cupboard knobs and drawer pulls, cell phones, iPads and other devices we may be using for our recipes.
  3. Don’t cook when you are sick. In the business world, people who are sick are not allowed to prepare food. This rule should apply in your home as well. It is very easy to transmit an illness to food and to other people, especially if the food prep person has a fever, diarrhea or something more serious. Sometimes we think we have picked up a “bug” of one kind or another and in actuality it is a foodborne illness.
  4. Think about how you use your kitchen towels. Kitchen towels can harbor a lot of bacteria. If you decide to use them they should be washed daily. Studies have shown very large quantities of bacteria can reside on these towels, helping you re-introduce bacteria onto your hands, dishes and countertops. It is recommended when you hand wash dishes that you let them air dry. Also be conscious of what you are using the towel for, is it just for food prep or are you finding yourself carrying it on your shoulder, dusting, wiping spills etc. Be aware of how germy towels can become and remember, you cannot see germs.
  5. Using paper towels? Paper towels are a wonderful aid in the kitchen, as long as they are used as a single-use tool. Researchers have observed people working in kitchens, wiping something down or drying hands and then re-using the paper towel over and over again, promoting cross-contamination. Paper towels are designed for single-use.
  6. Wash your produce prior to eating. Prior to consuming fresh produce should be washed. If you have purchased “pre-washed” lettuce or other produce, follow the manufacture directions.
  7. Purchase refrigerator and freezer thermometers. A thermometer in your refrigerator or freezer provides assurance your food is being held at the proper temperature. In the event of a power outage, these tools are very valuable in helping you determine if the appliance has maintained a proper cold temperature to keep your food safe.
  8. Handle your food like a business. To ensure safe and high-quality food, proper storage extends the shelf life of food. Remember to date food as you put it away, rotate food, putting the newest food in the back and oldest in the front, and toss food that is no longer safe to consume.
  9. Cool foods safely. Refrigerate foods quickly because cold temps slow the growth of harmful bacteria. With large quantities of soups, sauces or stew, divide into smaller, shallow containers, never place a large cooking vessel in the fridge to cool.
  10. Stop washing meat or poultry. Washing raw meat or poultry can spread bacteria to your sink, countertops and other surfaces in your kitchen. If this is a practice you have done – stop!

Making a resolution and sticking to it can be tricky. Michigan State University Extension suggests you practice these ideas. Preventing foodborne illness is one resolution we can all get behind to have a healthy and happy New Year!

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