Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill
You may have experienced food poisoning at some time in your life. It happens to about 1 in 6 Americans every year! While some people mistake it for stomach flu, it is differentiated from the flu because it comes on quickly and tends to resolve itself quickly...Which is not to say it’s pleasant. Some cases of food poisoning can even lead to hospitalization and death. September is Food Safety Education Month and it’s a good time to remind everyone about steps you can take to reduce your risk of suffering (and of making others suffer.)
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers the following advice to reduce the risk of foodborne illness:
Clean - Germs that cause food poisoning can survive in many places and spread around your kitchen. Always wash hands after handling uncooked meat, poultry, seafood, flour, and eggs. Wash all surfaces, cutting boards, and knives. In addition, rinse fruits and vegetables under running water prior to consuming or cutting.
Separate - Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from other foods in your grocery cart. At home keep them separate in the refrigerator and make sure the packages don’t leak onto other foods. Use separate cutting boards and knives for them. And DO NOT wash raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs before using. This is news to many people, but it’s been found that washing these foods can actually splash germs onto counters and cabinets.
Cook - A food thermometer is the best way to ensure that foods are cooked to a temperature that will kill germs. Different foods require different cooking times. For example, many meats need to be cooked to at least 145°; ground meats and chicken require 165°; and fish to 145°. Leftovers should be reheated to at least 165°.
Chill - Refrigerate leftover foods promptly. Bacteria can multiply quickly when food is left at room temperature or left too long in the “Danger Zone” between 40°F and 140°F. Make sure your refrigerator is set to 40° or below and your freezer to 0° or below. Refrigerate perishable food (meat, seafood, dairy, cut fruit, some vegetables, leftovers) within 2 hours. If the food has been exposed to temperatures above 90°F, refrigerate it within 1 hour. Never thaw frozen food on the counter. Thaw safely in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave.
For more information about handling food safely, check out the Food Safety Home Page at the CDC website.