October 13, 2008

Be Food Safe

In the United States each year...

...76 million cases of foodborne illness occur.
than 325,000 people are hospitalized for foodborne illness.
...5,000 people will die from foodborne illness.

The holidays are fast approaching and an appropriate time to remind you and your family to take these 4 important steps to keep food safe….Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.

Wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Hand sanitizers can be used but only as an optional follow-up to traditional hand washing with soap and water, except in situations where soap and water are not available. In those instances, use of an alcohol gel is certainly better than nothing at all. For a more in depth look at hand washing and sanitizers read “Hand and Hygiene Sanitizers.”

Cutting boards, countertops, sinks, sponges, and dish towels are among the items that need sanitizing. Making a sanitizing solution is as simple as mixing chlorine bleach and water; however, different sanitizing jobs call for different strengths.

To sanitize cutting boards - Wooden and plastic cutting boards should be sanitized periodically. Start by cleaning the surface in hot, soapy water and scrubbing with a stiff brush and rinse. Then mix one tablespoon chlorine bleach with one quart cool tap water and use this solution to rinse again. Allow the boards to air dry.

To sanitize countertops - Use a milder solution to sanitize countertops. Mix two teaspoons chlorine bleach with one quart of water.

To sanitize kitchen sponges and dish cloths - Mix 3/4 cup chlorine bleach with 1 gallon of water and allow them to soak for at least two minutes. Rinse and air-dry.

Sanitizing solutions should be mixed fresh daily as needed. Handle chlorine bleach with care, and keep out of reach of children. Too much chlorine will fade or strip out color and weaken fabric. More is not better. All brands of chlorine bleach meet the minimum standard. The more expensive brands you see in the store are charging for colorful bottles, added fragrance, and advertising.

Use one cutting board for raw meat, poultry, and seafood and another for salads and ready-to-eat food.

Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and their juices apart from other food items in your grocery cart.

Store raw meat, poultry, and seafood in a container or on a plate so juices can't drip on other foods.

You can't tell food is cooked safely by how it looks, so use a food thermometer. Thermometers are turning up everywhere in today's kitchens in all shapes and sizes—digitals, instant-reads, probes for the oven and microwave, disposable indicators and sensor sticks, pop-ups, and even barbecue forks. They're high-tech and easy to use.

Some thermometers are meant to stay in the food while it is cooking; others are not. Some are ideal for checking thin foods, like the digital. Others, like the large-dial thermometer many people use, are really meant for large roasts, whole chickens, and turkeys.

Stir, rotate the dish, and cover food when microwaving to prevent cold spots where bacteria can survive.

Bring sauces, soups, and gravies to a rolling boil when reheating

Use the temperature guide on page 19 in the Kitchen Companion –Your Safe Food Handbook identified at the end of the article to determine the correct internal temperature for the foods you are cooking.


Make sure the refrigerator is set to 40 °F or below. The freezer temperature should be 0° F (-18° C). Check temperatures periodically. Appliance thermometers are the best way of knowing these temperatures and are generally inexpensive.

Refrigerate or freeze perishables right away. Foods like meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, or produce or other foods that require refrigeration should be put in the refrigerator as soon as you get them home. Stick to the "two-hour rule" for leaving items needing refrigeration out at room temperature. Never let these foods sit at room temperature for more than two hours—one hour if the air temperature is above 90° F. This includes items such as leftovers, "doggie bags," and take-out foods as well.

Thaw meat, poultry, and seafood in the refrigerator not on the counter, and don't overstuff the refrigerator.

To access a comprehensive guide on food safety, click on the link below.

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