It's the simple things we forget to do in the kitchen that can cause food poisoning. A tummy ache, diarrhea, vomiting or nausea (or worse) are potential consequences of not following proper food safety procedures. Here are five things to do in the kitchen to help you stay healthy.
1. Wash Your Hands Often
Many people just give their hands a quick rinse under the water before cooking. Those hands have been everywhere, including the restroom, cell phone and cleaning the house. Hands should be washed before cooking, after using the restroom, after handling raw foods (like meat or eggs) and after taking out the garbage. Proper hand washing includes using warm water, soap and lathering for 10 to 15 seconds. Dry hands on a clean towel (that hasn’t been used for five other kitchen tasks) or a single-use paper towel.
2. Wash Your Reusable Grocery Bags
According to a 2011 survey from the Academy's and ConAgra Foods' Home Food Safety Program, 85 percent of Americans aren't washing their reusable grocery bags. That means if raw meat, poultry, eggs or other raw foods were placed in the bag they could leave behind potentially harmful bacteria. On your next trip to the grocery store, these bacteria can then be transferred to ready-to-eat foods, especially fresh produce, which doesn’t always get cooked. Wash your reusable bags often. Cloth bags can usually be tossed in the washing machine or cleaned by hand with warm water and soap. Plastic bags can be wiped down with antibacterial sprays.
3. Don’t Rinse Meat before Cooking
Many folks rinse their meat or poultry in the sink before cooking it. The water from the sink will splash (along with the bacteria) around the sink and countertop contaminating everything around. For this reason, The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend not rinsing meat and poultry before cooking. No need to worry about washing away bacteria before cooking because once the food is cooked to its proper internal temperature, harmful bacteria will be destroyed.
4. Use a Thermometer
Many people determine the doneness of their meat and poultry by using visual cues like color. However, according to research conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 25 percent of burgers will turn brown before they reach the safe cooking temperature. An undercooked burger can lead to food poisoning from bacteria such as E. Coli. Always use a thermometer to check if food is cooked to the safe internal temperature. Digital or dial thermometers are widely available, easy to use and inexpensive.
5. Use Clean Sponges
Kitchen sponges are often used to clean dishes, wipe down countertops and clean spills on the floor. The moisture of the sponges makes them the perfect environment to harbor bacteria, mold and yeast. The USDA Agricultural Research Service tested several cleaning methods to see which reduced the number of microorganisms on a sponge. The study found the best methods included microwaving and dishwashing, which killed 99.9999% and 99.9998% of bacteria present, respectively. Other commonly used methods like soaking in 10-percent bleach, lemon juice or deionized water destroyed only between 37 to 87 percent of bacteria present. Clean sponges and replace them often.