Keep It Clean in the Kitchen: The Stitch on Food Safety

by Theresa Carmichael, Nutrition Intern

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Home food safety is extremely important, when it comes to overall health. Unfortunately, food poisoning is said to affect about 1 out of 6 Americans yearly and has a potential to result in hospitalization or even in extreme cases death. Food poisoning occurs when people eat foods that have been contaminated with bacteria such as salmonella, E. Coli, and others types of poisoning. The symptoms are related to the flu and are very undesirable. Certain people are at a higher risk including young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems because of pre-existing health conditions.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics stresses the effects of food poisoning on health and have dedicated time to providing home food safety statistics and information to the public. Foods that commonly cause food poisoning when handled incorrectly include poultry, meat, fish, eggs, and sprouts. Follow the tips below to prevent food-borne illness in your household.

1. Keep it Clean – Washing hands with warm soap and water removes most of the bacteria that has accumulated on the hands during preparation. It is important to keep proper hygiene throughout the day in order to make sure anything you have come in contact with can be removed simply by hand-washing.

2. The Great Divide – Separate raw foods from food that has already been cooked. Designating different cutting boards for raw foods and cooked foods is an excellent way to make sure there is no cross contamination in food preparation. Also, paying close attention to where foods are placed during preparation is required for effective food safety. Washing all cutting boards, plates, and utensils if unsure of cross-contamination is highly recommended.

3. Bring on the Heat – Cook all raw foods at the correct temperature Specific temperatures are required for each type of food based on their make-up.  Some of the commonly used temperatures are as follows (given in degrees Fahrenheit):

Poultry: 165°
Beef: 145°
Seafood: 145°
Leftovers: 175°

4. Chill Out – Refrigerate leftover food to 40° Fahrenheit (or below) immediately after you finish eating. For remaining food items, place them in the refrigerator after they cool down. It is dangerous to put warm food in the refrigerator due to potential temperature changes of total storage. This change in temperature can affect the surrounding foods by placing it in the “hazard zone”: 40-140° Fahrenheit.

Modeling food safety for other family members is vital to keeping the home safe. Cooking, preparing, and eating together can help decrease the rate of food-borne illnesses at home. Check out this website and watch fun videos that can help you remember the four steps to food safety (Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill).