Right now, there may be an invisible enemy – that you can’t smell or taste – invading the food you eat.
Bacteria and viruses are already present in food, and they can come from anywhere: air, people, animals, soil. While some of these bacteria can cause food to spoil, others can often cause illness and are sometimes fatal.
However, you have the weapons right in your own home to fight back. It is as simple as following these four easy steps.
CLEAN: Wash Your Hands and Cooking Surfaces Often
Bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen. They often reside on cutting boards, sponges, dishcloths, utensils and especially countertops. Here’s what you can do to stop the invasion:
Wash your hands with soapy water before handling each separate food item and after using the bathroom, changing diapers and handling pets.
Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops with hot soapy water after each food item and before going on to the next food.
Use plastic or nonporous cutting boards, preferably those that can be washed in a dishwasher.
Use paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces. If you use dishcloths, remember to wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
SEPARATE: Avoid Cross-Contaminating Your Foods.
Cross-contaminating simply means the
spreading of germs from one product to another. This happens very easily when handling raw meats such as poultry and seafood. Here’s what you can do to keep these food and their juices away from your ready-to-eat foods:
Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood away from your other foods, not only in your refrigerator but also your grocery cart. If possible, place them in plastic bags before putting them in your grocery cart, even if they are already wrapped.
If possible, use a separate cutting board for raw meat products. Never cut anything else on the cutting board reserved for meats.
ALWAYS wash hands, cutting boards, dishes and utensils with hot soapy water after they come into contact with raw meat, poultry and seafood or their juices. Use a sanitizing agent whenever possible on cutting boards, dishes and utensils.
NEVER place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meats, poultry or seafood.
COOK: Cook Foods to Their Proper Temperatures!
Foods that have been properly cooked have been heated for enough time AND at a high enough temperature to kill the bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses. Here are some hints to ensure your food has been cooked properly:
Use a clean cooking thermometer to measure the internal temperatures of your meats, casseroles and other foods to make sure they are cooked all the way through.
Cook roasts and steaks to an internal temperature of 145ºF. Whole poultry should be cooked to 180ºF. Cook ground beef to at least 160º F. If no thermometer is available, DO NOT eat ground beef that is still pink inside.
Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm. Don’t use recipes in which eggs remain raw or partially cooked. This means, NO sneaking raw cookie dough!
Fish should be opaque and flake easily with a fork.
When cooking in a microwave, make sure you rotate the dish (if no turntable is available) to ensure even cooking throughout the dish. There should be no cold spots in the food. Also, add 25ºF to all minimum cooking temperatures.
All leftovers should be heated to at least 165ºF. Use your cooking thermometer to check temps.
CHILL: Refrigerate Your Foods Promptly
Refrigerate foods quickly because the cold temperatures will keep bacteria from growing. Your refrigerator should be set at 40ºF or lower and the freezer should be 0ºF. Checking these temperatures occasionally, with an appliance thermometer, along with these simple steps, will help you to decrease your chances of food borne illness.
Refrigerate or freeze all perishables, prepared foods and any leftovers within two hours or less.
Thaw food in your refrigerator, under cold running water or in your microwave. NEVER defrost food at room temperature.
Marinate foods in the refrigerator, and then throw the marinate away.
Dividing large portions of leftovers into small, shallow containers will help cool them off quickly.
DO NOT over-pack your refrigerator. In order to keep the air cool and keep your food safe, the air must be allowed to circulate.
TURN UP THE HEAT
By cooking your food to the correct temperature, you can kill harmful bacteria. By thoroughly cooking your foods to the temperatures listed below, you can turn up the heat and put bacteria in its place!!
Raw Food & Internal Temperature
Hamburger 160º F
Beef, veal, lamb, pork 160º F
Chicken, turkey 165º F
Beef, Veal, Lamb - roast & steaks
Medium rare 145º F
Medium 160º F
Well done 170º F
Pork chops, roasts, ribs
Medium 160º F
Well done 170 º F
Ham, fresh 160º F
Sausage, fresh 160º F
Chicken - whole & pieces 180º F
Duck 180º F
Turkey (unstuffed) 180º F
Whole 180º F
Breast 170º F
Dark meat 180º F
Stuffing (cook separately) 165º F
Fried & poached - the yolk and white should be firm
Casseroles 160º F
Sauces &custards 160º F
Websites which contain information on food borne illness are:
EdNet is an electronic newsletter from the Food and Drug Administration, Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that provides updates on food safety activities to educators and others concerned about food safety.