Keeping Contaminants Away from Your Food

Americans generally believe that the food they buy and consume is safe to eat. But did you know that, on a yearly basis, 48 million people are sickened by food poisoning? Bacteria, parasites and viruses often find their way into our food supply, causing many unsuspecting diners to fall ill. Fortunately, you can take steps to fight back against food contaminants inside your kitchen.

Thaw Smartly: Food that is left to thaw on a counter can serve as a magnet for bacteria, especially in room temperature conditions. Moreover, once harmful pathogens contaminated food, they can spread to the counter underneath. If not properly cleaned, such surfaces can facilitate the further spread of bacteria.

Get Thermometers for Food Too: Thermometers aren’t just for people; they can be useful when it comes to cooking food too. As a good rule of thumb, make sure that items such as steaks, chops of raw beef, pork, lamb and veal reach a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. When it comes to preparing raw ground meat, the internal temperature should reach 160 degrees, while poultry should at least reach 165 degrees before being consumed.

Clean Your Counter: This is an easy one; if not cleaned on a regular basis, your kitchen surfaces can become a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. A solution consisting of one teaspoon of liquid, unscented bleach for every quart of water should prove rather effective in eliminating harmful pathogens.

Clean Your Foods: All fruits and vegetables you purchase from the grocery store should be thoroughly washed. This tip also applies to fruits/ veggies you plan on peeling. Of course, the water you use to clean off these items should be clean running water.

Don’t Mix Up Cutting Boards: When preparing food, it’s a very good idea to separate knives and cutting boards used for raw foods from those used for cooked items. Failing to do so can lead to cross contamination.

Keep Foods Hot (or Cold): The optimum range for bacterial growth extends from 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Between these temperatures, it is relatively easy for these invisible organisms to multiply at a fairly rapid clip. To prevent this, try to keep cold food cold while making sure that hot foods don’t drop in temperature.

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