According to Home Food Safety, a program by the American Dietetic Association and ConAgra Foods, you should follow four safety tips during the summer season.
1. Wash Hands Often – Washing your hands in warm, soapy water reduces your chance of catching foodbourne illnesses nearly in half. It also significantly lessens the spread of flu and common cold.
Always wash your hands BEFORE and AFTER preparing foods and after handling raw meat, poultry and seafood. Always wash your hands front and back up to your wrists, between fingers and under fingernails. Dry hands thoroughly with either disposable paper towels or clean cloth towels…or air dry. Confused as to how long you should wash your hands? Sing “Happy Birthday” twice while you lather up, which equals to 20 seconds.
Also, don’t forget your SURFACES. Clean kitchen surfaces such as appliances, countertops, cutting boards and utensils with hot, soapy water. If your dishcloth/towel/sponge smells, that’s a sure sign that harmful bacterial growth is around. Bacteria live and grow in damp conditions! Make sure that your dishcloths are clean! Wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine. You should also disinfect your sponges in chlorine bleach solution, and replaces worn sponges frequently.
Wash Your Hands Before: Handle or prepare food, eat meals, and feed children.
Wash Your Hands After: Prepare food, touch raw food – especially meats, switch food preparation tasks, touch eggs or egg-rich foods, use the restroom, change a diaper, cough or sneeze, handle garbage or dirty dishes, smoke a cigarette, pet animals, use the phone, touch hair/face/body/other people, touch a cut or sore, and clean or touch dirty clothes.
2. Keep Raw Meats and Ready-to-Eat Foods Separate: You should always be careful with cutting boards! Don’t allow juices from raw meat or germs from unclean objects accidentally touch ready-to-eat foods (such as fruits or salad). This is how cross-contamination occurs. If it is not cleaned correctly, the cutting board harbors harmful bacteria.
Wonder what material cutting board you should purchase? It’s completely up to you, but please follow these guidelines. Buy and use TWO cutting boards. One STRICTLY for raw meat, poultry and seafood. The other for ready-to-eat foods, such as breads and vegetables. DON’T CONFUSE THEM. Wash the two boards thoroughly in hot, soapy water after each use or place in dishwasher. You should definitely discard old cutting boards with cracks, crevices and excessive knife scars.
Reminders on how to prevent cross contamination: Wash plates between uses or use different plates. One for holding raw meat, poultry and seafood…the other for cooked foods. Store raw meats, poultry and seafood on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator so that juices do not drip onto other foods. Place washed produce into clean storage containers, not back into the containers that it came in. Use one utensil to taste…and another to stir/mix food. Use clean scissors or blades when opening bags of food. If you have a sore or cut on your hand, wear latex gloves.
Special precaution: After you cut raw meat on the cutting board, first clean thoroughly with hot, soapy water…then disinfect it with chlorine bleach or other sanitizing solution…and last, rinse with clean water.
3. Cook To Proper Temperatures: Please note that harmful bacteria is destroyed when food is cooked at the proper temperature. You should purchase and use a meat thermometer. This is the ONLY reliable way to ensure the doneness of cooked meats, poultry, egg dishes and leftovers.
How To Get An Accurate Thermometer Reading: You should test red meats, roasts, steaks, chops and poultry pieces by insert the thermometer in the center of the thickest part, away from bone, fat and gristle. You should test poultry (whole bird) by inserting the thermometer in the inner thigh area near the breast. Make sure it’s not touching the bone. You should test ground meat and poultry by placing the thermometer in the thickest area of meatloaf or patty. With thin patties, insert it sideways reaching the very center with the stem. To test egg dishes and casseroles, insert it in the center or thickest area of the dish. For fish, cook until it is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.
Important Tip: Always remember to wash the thermometer stem thoroughly in hot, soapy water after each and every use!
4. Refrigerate Promptly Below 40°F: To prevent foodbourne illness and slow the growth of bacteria, you should refrigerate foods quickly and at a proper temperature. Leftover foods from a meal should NOT stay out longer than two hours. In hot weather (90 °F or above), this allotted time is reduced to just one hour. Please, make sure your refrigerator is set below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. This will allow perishable foods out of what is referred to as the “danger zone” – 40°F or above. Always have a refrigerator thermometer inside at all times!