Seven hightly effective habits for home food safety

Make a deliberate effort to follow food safety practices regularly to create good habits.

The things that we do over and over again without really thinking about them often become our habits. When it comes to food safety, we should all make a deliberate effort to follow certain practices regularly so that eventually they can become habitual. This way preparing food as safely as possible becomes a process that happens without even really thinking about it!

Michigan State University Extension recommends making food safety a lifelong habit by following these food safety practices developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). It will allow you the peace of mind of knowing that you have done everything you can to provide safe food for your family, friends and yourself.

Habit 1: Keep cold foods cold

Avoid the temperature danger zone which is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Foodborne bacteria multiply rapidly in this zone. After grocery shopping take your perishable foods, such as milk and other dairy products, eggs, meat, poultry and seafood home immediately and refrigerate or freeze them.

Habit 2: Don’t be a dope, wash with soap

Wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Bacteria can be spread all over your kitchen just by not washing your hands properly.

Habit 3: Watch that plate, don’t cross-contaminate

Cross contamination occurs when bacteria are transferred from one food or surface to another. Don’t let juices from raw meat, poultry or seafood come in contact with already cooked foods or foods that will be eaten raw. Do not put cooked meat on the plate that held the raw meat. Make sure juices of raw meat do not drip onto other foods in your refrigerator.

Habit 4: Make it a law – use the fridge to thaw

Never thaw (or marinade) meat, poultry or seafood on the kitchen counter. It is best to safely thaw it in the refrigerator. If food is thawed in the microwave, finish cooking it immediately. Microwave-thawed foods reach temperatures that encourage bacterial growth.

Habit 5: More than two is bad for you

Never leave perishable food at room temperature over two hours because bacteria can grow to harmful levels. On a hot day with temperatures at 90 degrees F or warmer, the time decreases to one hour.

Habit 6: Don’t get sick, cool it quick

Put leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer promptly after eating. Shallow containers cool food faster.       

Habit 7: Cook it right before you take a bite

Always cook perishable foods thoroughly. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of cooked foods.

When in doubt, throw it out. If you ever have a question about food safety and are unsure if the seven safe food habits have been followed throw it out rather than risking illness. Many bacteria that commonly cause foodborne illness can’t be seen, smelled or tasted. Depending on the kind of foodborne illness, it may develop within half an hour to several weeks after eating contaminated food.

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