Food Safety in Four Steps

September is National Food Safety Month. However, food safety should be practiced every day of the year and for every meal and or snack. We live in a busy society. We are always in a rush to do and to go to whatever we have planned. But, when it comes to our food, we need to make the time to observe steps to food safety. Food safety will decrease the opportunity for food borne illness. It’s as easy as following these core four practices for food safety:

CLEAN

Wash hands and surfaces often

Bacteria can be spread throughout the kitchen and get onto hands, cutting boards, utensils, counter tops, and food. To reduce your risk always:

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item.
  • Consider using paper towels. If you use cloth towels wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
  • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten.
  • Rub firm-skin fruits and vegetables under running tap water.

SEPARATE

Don’t cross-contaminate

Cross-contamination is how bacteria can be spread. Improper handling of raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can create an inviting environment for cross-contamination. As a result, harmful bacteria can spread to food and throughout the kitchen.

  • Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from other foods.
  • Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs.

COOK

Cook to the safe internal temperature

Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness. The best way to kill the harmful bacteria is to:

  • Use a food thermometer to make sure that the food is cooked to a safe internal temperature.
  • Cook roasts and steaks to a minimum of 145°F and all poultry to 165°F. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast with a food thermometer.
  • Cook ground meat to at least 160°F. Remember, color is not a reliable indicator of doneness.
  • Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm, not runny. Don’t use recipes in which eggs remain raw or only partially cooked.
  • Cook fish to 145°F or until the flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork.
  • Make sure there are no cold spots in food when cooking in a microwave oven. For best results cover food, stir, and rotate for even cooking.
  • Bring sauces, soups, and gravy to a boil when reheating. Heat other leftovers thoroughly to 165°F.

CHILL 

Refrigerate promptly

Refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria. Do not over-stuff the refrigerator. Cold air must circulate to help keep food safe. Keeping a constant refrigerator temperature of 40°F or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Use an appliance thermometer to be sure the temperature is consistently 40°F or below. The freezer temperature should be 0°F or below.

  • Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs and other perishables as soon as you get them home from the store.
  • Never let raw meat, poultry, eggs, cooked food or cut fresh fruits or vegetables sit at room temperature more than two hours before putting them in the refrigerator or freezer (one hour when the temperature is above 90°F).
  • Never defrost food at room temperature. There are three safe ways to defrost food: In the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately.
  • Always marinate food in the refrigerator.
  • Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.
  • Use or discard refrigerated food on a regular basis.