Tuesday, October 23, 2012

20% of Food Poisoning Cases are from Home: Food Safety Tips

I adore DH. You know that, right? But did you ever notice how sometimes even those adored ones DRIVE YOU CRAZY???

He’s not a kitchen kind of guy, but when I had some serious health issues, he stepped up. Partly so we’d have something to eat, of course, but he knew I was anxious about how we’d be fed, and he wanted to reassure me. He was a peach during those months, learning how to cut a mango and the right way to cook rice. (No, do not add it to cold water and bring to a boil.)

But, before and after, I was always on him about food safety issues. He just doesn’t seem to believe there are bacteria out there lurking, watching, waiting to kill us if we aren’t vigilant. How many times have I returned his Half and Half to refrigeration? Why wasn’t he poisoned by lunch meat made into an unrefrigerated sandwich at 6 a.m. and not eaten until 2:30? And doesn’t he understand you shouldn’t wipe a spill off the floor and then go back to washing dishes with it? Sigh.

In my continuing efforts to bring you helpful information, I scoured the Internet for food and kitchen safety tips. (Okay, I spent about 5 minutes. You’d be surprised how much is available.) Let’s do food safety today. We’ll save kitchen safety for another time. A list of sites I referred to is at the bottom.

1) The number one tip, doesn’t even have to be on the list, but it always is: Wash your hands before and after handling foods, especially raw meat. Dry them with a paper towel. Don’t risk transferring food particles to the dishtowel you’ll be using later. And do you know you are to use hot water and wash for as long as it takes you to sing “Happy Birthday” twice?

2) Don’t let DH take the chicken kabobs to the grill, and then put the cooked food back on the same plate. NEVER EVER.

3) Don’t take a sip of soup and re-use the spoon. Don’t lick the cookie batter and then keep making cookie mounds on the baking sheet. In other words, keep your saliva (and the kids”) away from food. Don’t count on the heat of cooking to kill germs. Use your brain and your self-control to kill germs. You don’t need those calories anyway.

4) Put away food that can spoil immediately after use. While food can stay on the counter for serving (for seconds) for a short while, before you rinse the dishes, put the food away. Never let it sit out more than 2 hours. If the temp is 90° or more, refrigerate after one hour.

5) Have a cold? Best to coerce someone else to cook for you, but if you cannot, turn away AND cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing. Did you know a sneeze can travel up to 131 feet? That it can travel at speeds 95mph to 630 mph? Do you really think your hand can stop that? Use a tissue and then wash your hands (“Happy birthday to you . . .”).

6) At the grocery store shop the center aisles first (where canned/boxed foods reside), then shop produce, refrigerated, and frozen food aisles so you put the most perishable items in last.

7) In the summer, keep perishables in the car on the way home from the grocery, not the hot trunk.

8) If you live 30 minutes or more from the store, bring along a cooler with ice in it to bring food home. Don’t do errands after grocery shopping.

9) If you can, make sure refrigerated/freezer items are bagged together so you can put them away first when you get home.

10) Ignore the label that says the veggies or fruits are pre-washed. Wash them all under cool running water before using.

11) To extend the life of your berries, dip them in a vinegar/water solution (1part vinegar to 10 parts water), rinse and store in the refrigerator. It kills mold spores.

 12) Do you wash (or at least rinse) your can opener after every use? Why not?

13) Invest in a food thermometer to make sure you are cooking foods to temps that will kill bacteria: ground meat, 160°; ground poultry, 165°; beef, veal, and lamb, 145°; fresh pork, 160°; chicken breast, 170°; and chicken thighs, 180°.

14) Use cooked leftovers within 4 days.

15) Storing warm food in the refrigerator in smaller rather than larger, and shallow rather than deep containers, allows the food to chill faster.

Oh, you could add more food safety tips. Food poisoning is real. According to the CDC, 20%, that’s one in five cases of food poisoning, originate in the home. Safety up here. We can drop that figure!


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