Prevent Food Poisoning

Nip bacteria in the bud. The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE) reminds us that foodborne bacteria covet cutting boards, utensils, sponges, countertops, hands and … food. Fight back the simplest way, and wash up. The FDA says up to 20 percent of us don’t wash hands and surfaces before preparing food.

* Wash all of the above in hot, soapy water before and after food preparation and especially after preparing raw meat, poultry, eggs, or seafood. Wash your hands — always for at least 20 seconds — after using the bathroom or after changing diapers or petting your lovable pets.

* Cutting boards (including plastic, non-porous, acrylic) should be run through the dishwasher or washed in hot, soapy water after each use. Wooden boards and utensils, because they’re porous and can't be cleaned to standards, aren’t used in commercial kitchens. Wood also doesn’t hold up well in dishwashers, so you’ll hand wash, hot and soapy, when you use a wooden board. Always buy a new board if yours is excessively worn. If wood appeals, consider using a wooden board for fruit, vegetables or breads; plastic boards for meats.

* On a cutting and counter surface, use a disinfectant or bleach and water mixture for added “oomph.” You don’t want to ingest harmful chemicals, so read labels for cautions. Rinse thoroughly with clean water and allow the surface to dry naturally and completely before the next use. Scour your meat thermometer after each use. Sanitize your kitchen sink drain, disposal and connecting pipe: What you can’t see can cause problems.

* Use paper towels to clean kitchen surfaces; wipe, then throw away. Sure, cloth towels are tempting when in reach, but risky. If you use them, wash frequently on “hot” in your washing machine.

Fabulous Fruit and Veggies

When getting your daily Fab Five:

* Thoroughly wash fresh produce under running water.

* Use a vegetable brush to scrub “firm-surfaced” veggies, like potatoes or carrots.

* Remove damaged or bruised areas where bacteria can thrive.

Kitchen Savvy

Show your high “IK” or in-kitchen smarts, by following these basic tips:

* Use one cutting board for fresh produce, another for raw meat, poultry and seafood.

* When cooked, don’t return food to whence it came in its raw state: Use a new plate.

* Keep juices in their own space: Put meat, poultry and seafood in protective, sealed bags to alleviate in-fridge dripping.

* Love that marinade! But if it's been in contact with raw meat, don’t use it as a sauce without boiling the liquid first.

* Reheat sauces, soups and gravies to a rolling boil.

* Use a clean food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked all the way through. Bacteria need time and the right temperature to be happy.

* Microwaves should not leave cold spots in food where bacteria can survive. So cover food, stir and rotate for even cooking.

Go On: “Chill”

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) reminds us that refrigeration at 40° or below is critical to preventing food-borne contamination: Trust a fridge thermometer.

* Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared foods and leftovers within two hours of purchase or use. Marinate foods in the refrigerator.

* Don’t defrost at room temperature, but thaw in the refrigerator. For a quick thaw, submerge in cold water in an airtight package or thaw in the microwave if you will be cooking it immediately.

* Separate large amounts of leftovers into small, shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator. Don’t over-stuff the refrigerator, but allow cold air to circulate or temperatures can rise to bacteria’s liking.

* Discard aging foods as recommended in the USDA Cold Storage Chart found here (please visit from a wired computer to access this link).

Did Someone say “Party”?

It's time for your summer party. Menus planned, cake ordered, but…are you really ready? The Mississippi State University Extension Service has some basic, brilliant ideas:

* Plan wisely. Obtain extra chafing dishes or warmers and enough large serving dishes and eating utensils. Purchase disposables if necessary. Don't hold prepared foods in the refrigerator more than a day or two. If prepared further in advance, freeze them. Use your tasting spoon only once, wash before second use.

* Watch the time. Food that has remained at room temperature for four hours can cause a gastrointestinal upset. We recommend no more than two hours above 40°F or below 140°F — half that time if the room is very warm. Putting food in the fridge slows, not stops, contamination.

* In fact, rather than allow foods to slip to room temperature, it’s best to keep HOT Foods HOT: above 140° F. Bacteria love lukewarm foods. Keep protein foods such as seafood, poultry and cooked meats hot by using an electric hot tray or chafing dish. Small candle warming units may not keep hot foods hot enough.

* And, keep COLD Foods COLD: below 40° F. Cream pies, puddings, seafood salads and dishes made with eggs, fish, meat and poultry must be kept cold. Don't let these foods stand at room temperature more than two hours (including preparation, storage and serving time) and don't serve large quantities at one time.

Your kids know you’re a superb chef. You know you’re a smart one too. Bon appétit!

© 2006

Tips courtesy of Magazine --

May be printed for personal and educational purposes only.
Copyright © 2005, Magazine, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Click to return to the tip