Where do bacteria hide?

Preventing cross-contamination – the basic rules that you may overlook can be more harmful than you may think.

Bacteria can move from one food to another. They don’t have feet, but they can get into food through cross-contamination. For example, if raw meat comes in contact with a vegetable, any bacteria in the meat or its juices can be transferred from the raw meat to the vegetable. We not only have to guard against cross-contamination in this manner, but we have to be aware of the following as well:

Clothing: Clothing can contaminate food if it is not clean. A clean apron does little good if it is over dirty clothes, as the clothing could contaminate it.

Counters and kitchen surfaces: In order to keep your kitchen surfaces clean from bacteria, sanitize them. Cleaning will reduce the amount of dirt and grime on a surface, but sanitizing is the only way to kill any bacteria. Use the “recipe” in the next paragraph of this article, and allow to air dry.

Cutting boards: Clean and sanitize your cutting board after each use. One idea is to have two cutting boards – one for meats and one for fruits and vegetables. This will help to reduce cross-contamination. The boards can be sanitized after washing using a bleach solution. Michigan State University Extension recommends using one teaspoon of regular household bleach (not scented or concentrated) to one quart of water. Let the cutting board air dry.

Dish towels: When it comes to drying your dishes, air drying is the best! Using a dish towel to dry dishes may introduce bacteria to your clean dishes. If you need to use a utensil immediately after washing, use a single-use disposable towel to dry and throw it away. Remember to clean your towels and dish cloths often.

Hands: Wash your hands with hot, soapy water, especially after you handle raw meat, fish and poultry. Wet your hands with warm running water and apply soap. Scrub the front and back of your hands, making sure to get between your fingers. You should scrub between 10 and 15 seconds. Rinse the soap off your hands and dry with a single-use paper towel, which you can then use to turn off the tap and avoid any other contamination.

Kitchen knobs: How often do you clean the knobs on your drawers and cupboards? Could bacteria be hiding there, waiting for you to touch with hands or clothing? Even kitchen knobs can harbor bacteria and should be cleaned and sanitized regularly. A clean apron can be contaminated if brushed on a dirty knob.

Food safety is important in your home kitchen. You have important people to feed and keep healthy – your family. Following these tips can help you to avoid cross-contaminating the foods in your home. If you would like more information about food safety, contact your local MSU Extension office or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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