One in four Americans comes down with some kind of illness that is related to contaminated food each year. Are you doing everything you can to keep your family safe from toxic food? Learn the rules of safe food preparation, cooking, clean up and storage.
Cross contamination is one of the major factors in food-borne illnesses. You might be surprised how easily bacteria can spread in a kitchen. Everything from your cutlery to your cutting boards to your countertops can be a secret haven for serious bacterial contamination.
When you handle raw meat, chicken or uncooked seafood, you open the door to bacteria. In order to keep your kitchen at its safest, you want to use separate sides of your cutting board for meats and vegetables. Some boards make it easy for you by adding a green dot on one side and a red dot on the other. The green is for veggies, the red for raw meat.
Once you use the cutting board for raw meat, you’ll want to scrub it clean and carefully dry it completely before using it again. If you need to cut vegetables next, clean the board, then turn it over to the opposite side. That way you will be certain not to cross contaminate the veggies with the bacteria from the meat.
You see, contaminants such as e Coli come from the feces of humans and warm-blooded animals. That’s why hand washing is so important when you are talking about food safety. That means cleaning under your fingernails too. Dirt and bacteria, especially if you have been cutting meat, can hide under your beautifully painted nails, be sure to use a hand scrub brush to clean under these delicate hiding places.
The cutlery that you use for peeling, chopping, slicing and dicing needs to be cleaned and sanitized too. Be sure that you clean the entire knife in warm soapy water. Fine cutlery shouldn’t be cleaned in the dishwasher in order to preserve them, so it is suggested that you hand wash these carefully.
Finally you will need to clean and sanitize the countertops or anywhere in the kitchen that has come in contact with the raw meat. Remember, e Coli and other bacterias exist naturally in meat since it comes from animals, that’s why keeping it separate from your produce is so important, especially produce such as salads that you eat uncooked.
Be sure to wash your produce carefully to remove bacteria from others handling your fruits and veggies. Don’t allow them to air dry either, always use a clean paper towel and carefully wipe them off after washing.
Another factor in keeping your kitchen safe is to carefully monitor the temperature of foods and the surrounding ambient temps. Bacteria grows at an accelerated rate at temperatures above 42 degrees to 180 degrees. This is called the critical time when food can become contaminated and if stored in the refrigerator too soon or too late, can make a person sick who tries to eat the food.
In restaurants after service is over, the cooked foods all have to be stored or discarded. In order to bring the temperature of the food to a safe storing temp, the restaurant uses a cold paddle to lower the temp of the food. That’s because if you wait for the food to cool by itself it will enter the critical time warp and become contaminated and restaurants can risk that for the health of their customers and their business.
You can adapt this same practice in your home. Simply fill a water bottle up with water and put it in the freezer. When you have soup or stew and everyone has been served, allow the food to cool for about 15 to 20 minutes. Then place the frozen plastic bottle in your food and it will help to lower the temp. Make stirring motions with the bottle to effectively cool the entire pot of food.
Some people think that with an air-conditioned house, you don’t have to worry about the food being left out. Some might say they have been leaving food out without any problem with illnesses in their family.
While this may be true, someone with a weakened immune system might get contaminated very easily. If you or other members of your family have problems with intestinal problems it very well may be the result of contaminated food.
When dining out and taking home a doggie bag, it’s important that you go straight home. Holding onto food and then leaving it in your car for a couple of hours is just not safe. If your planning to go to the movie after dinner leave the food behind, don’t take any with you, you’ll only have to toss it out later.
That’s the important thing, just because the food looks okay from the outside, doesn’t mean that it’s safe to eat. If after leaving it out, you place it in the fridge, you won’t be able to use your nose to determine if the food has gone bad. Refrigeration merely puts bacteria to sleep for a while, but it’s still present in your food. If it got in there before the food went into the fridge, then it remains alive in the food.
When eating out at buffets, you’ll want to be careful too. Not everyone has the best hand washing practices, so anything like buffet spoons or other objects that are shared, could possibly be contaminated. It’s also smart to pay attention to things like the temperature of the food in a buffet. The temperature for holding food should be around 215 degrees for best condition.
Back in your kitchen, foods stored in the refrigerator should be covered completely. Keep deli meats and raw meats separately as well as vegetables and fruits. Most fruits should be kept out of the refrigerator for the best taste.
Launder all dish rags, towels and potholders used in the kitchen regularly to keep down on cross contamination too. You might be surprised at the number of bacteria that can live on a wet dish rag. All in all, don’t let your kitchen practices make your family sick. Use this information to create a safe and healthy place to prepare your family’s meals.
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