Keeping Your Food Safe
Food is an ideal place for bacteria to grow. Take the following precautions to avoid getting foodborne illness:
Clean everything that comes in contact with food:
- Wash hands with soap and warm running water before handling food, and between each step in food preparation.
- Wash countertops, cutting boards and utensils in hot, soapy water after each use, especially after coming in contact with raw meat, poultry or seafood juices. (Recommend sanitizing cutting boards with a chlorine bleach-water solution. Mix 2 ounces bleach per quart of water, then let board air-dry.)
- Use paper towels to clean kitchen surfaces. If you use cloth towels, dishcloths, or sponges, wash them often, and every time they have touched raw meat, poultry or seafood juices. Use hot soapy water or the hot water cycle of the washing machine.
Thaw food properly:
- The safest way is to thaw meat and poultry overnight in the refrigerator. Never leave at room temperature to thaw, as bacteria will grow quickly.
- To thaw faster, put the frozen package of food in a watertight plastic bag under cold water, and change the water about every 30 minutes.
- Small amounts of food can be thawed in the microwave on “defrost” setting. Once thawed, cook right away. (Time depends on amount of food being thawed.)
Storing and using leftovers:
- Put in refrigerator as soon as possible (within two hours of cooking, particularly for meat, chicken, turkey, seafood and egg dishes).
- Divide large portions and put into small, shallow containers, so they cool more quickly.
- Use leftovers quickly. Previously cooked meat, meat and egg dishes, soups, stews, vegetables should be used within 3 to 4 days, and gravy and meat broth withing 1 to 2 days.
- Reheat leftovers until they are steaming hot.
- Store in a cool, clean dry place.
- Never use food from containers that are leaking or bulging, or badly dented cans, cracked jars or jars with loose or bulging lids, canned food with a bad odor, or any container that spurts liquid when opened.
These are only some of the more common precautions to take. See the United States Department of Agriculture web site for more information on this topic.