Over the past two weeks as part of the Food Safe Families campaign, I’ve blogged about the basic food safety steps of cook and clean. Both are important but easy to implement in your food prep routine. Today, I’m going to focus on preventing a sneaky food safety hazard that can show up at many points between purchasing and eating food: cross-contamination.
Cross-contamination is when juices from uncooked foods come in contact with safely cooked foods, or with other raw foods that don’t need to be cooked, like fruits and vegetables. The juices from some raw foods, like meats and seafood, can contain harmful bacteria that could make you and your family sick.
- Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods in your shopping cart and on the way home. Their shrink-wrapped containers may leak, so place them in plastic bags to prevent their juices from dripping onto other foods.
In the refrigerator:
- Place raw meat, poultry and seafood in containers, on plates or in sealed plastic bags to prevent their juices from dripping onto other foods.
- Store eggs in their original carton and refrigerate as soon as possible.
When preparing food:
- Use hot, soapy water and clean paper towels or clean cloths to wipe up kitchen spills. Wash cloths often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
- If possible, use one cutting board for meat, poultry, and seafood and another one for fruits and vegetables. Otherwise wash cutting boards, dishes, and counter tops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next item.
- Always use a clean cutting board, and replace cutting boards that have become excessively worn.
- Marinate food in the refrigerator, following the storage guidelines above. Reserve a clean portion of marinade for using on cooked meat, poultry, and seafood. To reuse marinade that held raw food, bring it to a boil before using it on cooked food.
When serving food:
- Never place cooked food back on the same plate or cutting board that previously held raw food unless the plate has been washed first in hot, soapy water.
- Likewise, never serve cooked food with the same utensils that handled raw food, unless they have been washed first in hot, soapy water. This means taking two sets of plates and utensils out to the barbecue grill—one set for handling the raw food, and one set for removing cooked food from the heat.
For more information on preventing cross-contamination, go here. Check back every week for another Check Your Steps blog post and follow #checksteps on Twitter for updates on the Food Safe Families campaign.
Bacteria exist everywhere in our environment, and some of them can make us really sick. Illness-causing bacteria exist in or on food, on countertops, kitchen utensils, hands, pets, and in the dirt where food grows. As part of the Food Safe Families campaign, this week’s Check Your Steps blog focuses on cleaning before, during, and after preparing and eating food to keep your family safer from food poisoning.
Can I just rinse my hands?
Washing your hands is important, and not just during flu season. Pathogens like E. coli can be passed from person to person, so wash—don’t just rinse—your hands for twenty seconds with running water and soap at these key times:
- Before and after handling food
- After playing with pets
- After using the bathroom
- After changing diapers
Do I have to wash the food I’m going to peel anyway?
Because it’s easy to transfer bacteria from the peel or rind while you’re cutting your fruits and veggies, wash all produce, even if you plan to peel it. Scrub melons, cucumbers and other firm produce with a produce brush before slicing. Skip soap or detergent—these can leave behind residue that you don’t want to ingest. Using clean running water is the safest way to remove bacteria and wash produce.
Will washing raw chicken make it safer?
No! Rinsing meat, poultry or seafood with water increases your chance of food poisoning by splashing juices - and any bacteria they might contain - onto your sink and counters. The best way to cook meat, poultry or seafood safely is to cook it to the right temperature.
How clean is clean enough?
You may have seen this video showing what overzealous cleanliness in the kitchen looks like. In reality, we don’t recommend using a sprinkler to keep your kitchen clean!
Kitchens and dining areas have many surfaces that come into contact with food. Utensils like spatulas, knives, small cutting boards and food thermometers should be washed with hot, soapy water after each use. Dish cloths go in the washing machine. Flood countertops and large cutting boards with one teaspoon of unscented liquid bleach per quart of water (there is no advantage to using more bleach), and let it stand for ten minutes. Rinse with clean water, and let the surfaces air dry or pat them dry with fresh paper towels.
For more information on cleanliness in the kitchen see Clean: Wash Hands and Surfaces Often. Check back every week for another Check Your Steps blog post (last week’s focused on Cook), and follow #checksteps on Twitter for updates on the Food Safe Families campaign.
While federal food safety agencies work hard every day to keep food safe before it gets to the consumer, the risk of foodborne illness has not been eliminated. One in six Americans will get food poisoning this year—that’s 48 million people. The USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline feels that it is important to give you information that can help prevent food poisoning when preparing meals at home.
Four simple behaviors—Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill—are the focus of the new Food Safe Families campaign and can help you keep your family safe when preparing, serving and storing food. Have you seen our ad with a pig in a sauna, reminding Americans of the need to cook meat to the right temperature? We want consumers to understand that food poisoning can happen, and that there are ways to help prevent it.
Today and for the next three weeks, we’ll post a blog focusing on one of these four important steps.
Always cook food to the right temperature.
The only way to know when meats, poultry and seafood have reached a safe internal temperature is to use a food thermometer. You can’t tell by looking or by the color of meat or poultry.
Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures.
Cook all ground meat, including hamburgers, to 160 °F.
Cook all chicken and turkey—whole, pieces or ground—to 165 °F.
Reheat leftovers to 165 °F.
Always place the food thermometer in the thickest part of the food, away from bone and fat, to check the temperature.
Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the food in several places.
When cooking in a microwave oven, stir, cover, and rotate food for even cooking. Let food rest for a few minutes after cooking it in the microwave. This helps your food cook more completely by allowing colder areas of food time to absorb heat from hotter areas of food.
More information can be found here to make sure you’re cooking different types of food and using kitchen appliances properly to keep your family safe. Follow #checksteps on Twitter or visit www.Facebook.com/foodsafety.gov for updates from the Food Safe Families campaign.