Did you know 48 million people are affected with food poisoning every year but most of them don’t make the headlines? That’s because most food poisonings happen quietly in the home. The relatively few that start in restaurants and other food processing facilities usually affect a larger number of people that live in one household so they do make headlines. Less publicized doesn’t mean less distressing, though, so it’s wise to use the safest food handling techniques at home, where your favorite people risk illness when good practices are overlooked.
Make these 25 tips for safe food handling a routine part of your kitchen routine. Most people won’t incorporate them all but the more that are used regularly, the less likely your family will get sick.
- Proper temperatures are extremely important for animal-based foods (seafood, meats, eggs, dairy). Keep it all colder than 40 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer than 140. The germs that make you sick thrive at temps between 40 and 140, with human body temperature being their favorite.
- Refrigerator settings need to be cooler than 40 degrees at all times.
- Store eggs in the refrigerator interior, not on the door. The door is the warmest part of the refrigerator because it’s exposed to warm air every time the door is opened.
- Thaw frozen meats slowly in the refrigerator overnight or while at work, never on the counter.
- Keep a cooking temperature chart and thermometer handy and never serve meats that aren’t completely cooked.
Keep It Clean
- Wash hands before and after handling all foods. Sing “Happy Birthday” to yourself to make sure you wash long enough.
- Wash hands, counter, cutting board, knives, and other kitchen tools after handling raw eggs, meat, or seafood.
- Use one cutting board to work with meats, dairy, seafood, and poultry and keep another strictly for fruits, veggies, bread, and such.
- Wash sponges and brushes in the dishwasher or replace them often.
- Grab a clean, dry towel as the final step to after-food-prep cleaning; wipe dry all countertops, sinks, faucets, and other surfaces that are damp or wet. Most illness-causing germs can’t live long without water so don’t give them a chance.
- Keep all pets off all counters or other food prep surfaces at all times.
- Store dishwashing and other household cleaning supplies away from food prep areas; chemical contamination is as dangerous as germs are.
Safe Seafood, Meats, Poultry
- Store these items individually, beginning at the supermarket shopping cart.
- Prep veggies, fruits, and anything served raw before prepping meats, seafood, or poultry.
- Never work with raw meats and other foods at the same time or with the same tools.
Eggs and Dairy
- Eggs are one of the main sources for salmonella poisoning. Keep them cold.
- Buy and use only clean chilled eggs that aren’t cracked.
- Cook eggs thoroughly or buy pasteurized eggs if food poisoning poses a great risk (high-risk pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy, organ recipient, or other conditions that compromise immune-system integrity).
- Pasteurized milk and cheeses made from pasteurized milk are the safest.
- Don’t wash produce until time to use it but . . .
- Wash it all under cool, running water before preparing or eating it.
- Wash the outsides of melons before slicing; these things grow on the ground and soil debris can be transferred from the outside to the edible inside by the slice of a knife.
- Watermelons are often stored at home on the floor so be sure they’re washed on all sides before slicing.
- Use a veggie brush to clean potatoes and other root veggies that are grown underground.
- Lettuce and other salad greens are grown very close to the ground so be sure to rinse and dry them before using them. Salad spinners are great for drying but a very clean bath-size towel works well, too: Spread freshly washed greens on the towel that’s been folded once long-ways, roll it up from one short end to the other, and give it a few minutes to absorb excess moisture.
No health inspector will come knocking at your door but keeping the kitchen clean and food handling practices safe would ensure a passing grade if an inspection were to happen.
- "Basics for Handling Food Safely." Food Safety Information. US Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, n.d. Web. 16 June 2015.
- "Safe Food Handling Fact Sheets." US Department of Agriculture. US Department of Agriculture, 24 Mar. 2015. Web. 16 June 2015.