Food Safety Tips

November 04, 2011

The holiday season is here and a better time than ever to be reminded about keeping our food safe at home. Read on for the SupermarketGuru’s tips

According to the CDC’s latest estimates, food borne illnesses affect 48 million Americans, leading to 180,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths. Health officials suspect this number is much greater as most food borne illnesses go unreported.

Safe food handling is critical in homes with small children, older adults, and those with compromised immune systems – who are generally at greater risk of getting sick from contaminated food. Food safety at home involves many factors - from how we handle and store food to cleanliness and expiration dates.

Here are some tips to keep your family and friends safe this holiday season and year round. 

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 washing or rinsing 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.

Don’t cross-contaminate! 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.

No matter where you purchase your food, whether at your local supermarket or farmers' market it should be treated the same and if it's fresh produce, washed thoroughly. Preferably with a vegetable wash.

Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared foods and leftovers within two hours.

Never defrost or marinate food at room temperature. Use the refrigerator. You can also thaw foods in airtight packaging in cold water (change the water every 30 minutes, so the food continues to thaw). Or, thaw in the microwave if you’ll be cooking the food immediately.

Don’t over-stuff the refrigerator. Cold air must circulate to keep food safe.

Use an appliance thermometer to make sure your refrigerator is running at 40 degrees or below and that the freezer is at 0 degrees or below.

Place packages of raw meat, poultry or fish on a plate in the refrigerator so their juices won't drip on other foods. Freeze fresh meat, poultry or fish if you will not be using it within a few days of purchasing.

When cooking meat, use a thermometer to check that it is cooked to the proper temperature: hamburgers and ground beef - 160 degrees; ground poultry - 165 degrees; cuts of beef, veal and lamb - 145 degrees; fresh pork - 160 degrees; and whole poultry - 180 degrees in the thigh and 170 degrees in the breast.

The Holiday season is here so enjoy and stay safe.