Check Your Steps: Separate Raw Meats from Other Foods
By Diane Van, Manager of the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline
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.