Food Safety First

August 22, 2012

With news of the recent recalls, SupermarketGuru wants to remind you how to stay safe in the summer and year round

Food safety is always top of mind and especially now in the hot weather and with news of the latest foodborne illness outbreaks. In the latest outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), two people have died and 141 have fallen ill in 20 states due to salmonella inked to contaminated cantaloupe grown in southwestern Indiana.

Agricultural experts say the frequent problems with cantaloupes come from the nature of the melons and melon agricultural practices. A cantaloupe's rough, porous skin is an easy target for bacteria, which cling to the bumps on its surface. Bacteria don't stick as easily to the hard, smooth rinds of honeydews and watermelons, Douglas Powell, a professor of food safety at Kansas State University told USA Today.

The CDC is advising people who purchased cantaloupes grown in southwestern Indiana, to throw them away – if you are not sure of the source of the cantaloupe, it’s best to toss it. Steve Patricio, Chairman of the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board " is calling on farmers, retailers, foodservice operators and distributors to examine their food safety systems and producers to ensure that consumers are purchasing safe and healthy products." He also points out that consumers look carefully at labels. California actually produces 60 percent of all the cantaloupes grown in the U.S.

In light of the cantaloupe outbreak, SupermarketGuru wanted to remind you about food safety in the kitchen and point out how to protect your family from some of the most common foodborne illnesses.

So how to keep your kitchen clean? First off, always wash your hands with soap under warm running water for at least 20 seconds before handling and preparing food. Repeat after handling raw meat, and before eating.

Spray your stove and oven spills with an all-purpose cleaner, let stand for around ten minutes for easier cleaning. Because most of us regularly heat the oven to over 400 degrees, oven spills aren’t a food hazard; cover fresh spills with salt until you have time to clean.

Don't ignore the sink, drain and faucet handle. Clean these key items regularly with household cleanser, especially after handling raw meat. If you hand-wash dishes, air drying in a dish rack is the best choice as a dirty or wet dish towel can re-contaminate clean dishes. Change dishtowels at least daily, sponges can be placed on the top rack of the dishwasher at the end of every day to sanitize.

Remember to wipe down your refrigerator handle every day. Throw out anything that's past its date or looks rotten weekly. Every few months, empty the shelves and clean the inside, remember to remove drawers and wipe down around them. Wipe food jars to remove drips before putting them back in the fridge.

Keep in mind cross-contamination; we all know not to put cooked food on the same surface you used for raw food, but it goes even further than cutting boards – be careful not to touch items around the kitchen like the salt and pepper shaker or cabinet handles while handling raw food.

It’s also advised to wash your reusable tote bags regularly as these can be a prime source for bacteria to thrive. The combination of crumbs, condensation from cold or frozen foods, and possible leaks from raw meat, poultry or fish is not uncommon in our grocery bags. Make sure totes are regularly cleaned and aired out to dry. It is also important to replace (or machine wash if possible) reusable totes when they look as if they have passed their expiration date.

Stay tuned for an article on the common pathogens that make us sick.