Cleanliness is Key
An important part of preventing foodborne illnesses is to wash hands, utensils and cooking surfaces in hot, soapy water before, during and after preparing food. Raw meat, poultry, eggs or seafood, can be particularly dangerous if not prepared correctly. One out of five people do not wash their hands and surfaces before preparing food, and that simple step can eliminate close to 50 percent of all foodborne illness cases.
Pay special attention to cutting boards. It is best to run them through the dishwasher after each use. If possible, use one cutting board for meats and another for other foods like vegetables. Boards that are excessively worn should be thrown away.
Using bleach or a disinfectant cleaner can further protect surfaces against bacteria. Cleaning with paper towels is preferred to sponges and dishtowels because paper towels can be discarded immediately after use.
A refrigerator should be kept at 40 Fahrenheit or below to help slow the growth of harmful bacteria. A refrigerator thermometer can aid in showing if the temperature is kept consistent. Never let the temperature approach 32 F because ice crystals will begin to form and harm some foods.
Foods should be refrigerated or frozen within two hours of purchase or use. It is best to separate leftovers into containers less than two inches deep, to allow for quick cooling and to prevent bacteria from developing. Also, marinate and defrost foods in the refrigerator, not on the counter.
Make it HOT
Both time and heat play a roll in killing harmful bacteria in foods. The temperature varies for foods, based on type. For instance, beef roasts and steaks should be 145 F for medium rare and 160 F for medium, while whole poultry should be 180 F. Fish should be cooked until it is opaque and easily flakes with a fork. Despite its importance, only two percent of people use a food thermometer when cooking ground meat.
When serving food in a buffet style, hot foods should be kept at 140 F or higher.
When traveling with food, remember important safety tips. First and foremost, bring a lot of ice to keep food cold. When packing a cooler, fill it completely to keep food the coldest. It is best to store the cooler in the air-conditioned vehicle, versus the trunk.
Once on site, do not take food out until absolutely necessary. Food should not be left out for more than two hours when the air is 90 F or less. If it is warmer outsider, food shouldnÂEURt be left out for more than an hour. Leftovers should be returned to the cooler as soon as possible.
Be sure to be proactive in preventing foodborne illnesses. If you have any questions about illnesses that can be caused by bacteria in food, talk with your physician or nutritionist.
Partnership for Food Safety Education: www.fightbac.org
Home Food Safety: www.homefoodsafty.org