Food Safety Tips

July 3, 2009 by  
Filed under Health and Fitness

By Brooke Parker 

Fire up the grills. Summer is here!  Some of summer’s most memorable moments involve food.  Whether you plan on feeding your entire extended family at a reunion, a gourmet dutch-oven meal in the woods, or a romantic dinner for two, don’t let food poisoning get in your way. 

The following tips will help you identify potential dangers and offer safe food-handling guidelines to keep everyone feeling great.

Keep it clean:
• Wash your hands before handling food.  Our hands are germ’s number one transport. Use warm water and soap, scrubbing thoroughly. The alphabet song is approximately the time recommended for hand washing (also a great way for children to learn the alphabet).
• Wash all knives, cutting boards, utensils with hot soapy water.
• Rinse fruits and vegetables in running water.  Peel and discard outer layers of lettuce and cabbage.
• Use clean plates for cooked meats.  DO NOT use the same plate used to carry raw meats.
• Keep dishcloths and towels clean.  If cleaning up raw meat juice, it is better to use a paper towel you can throw away.

Get it hot:
• Cook meat thoroughly to kill possible bacteria.  A food  thermometer is the best way to go.
• Ground Beef – 160 degrees Fahrenheit
• Chicken – 170 degrees Fahrenheit
• Pork – 160 degrees Fahrenheit

Keep it cold:
• If you live far away from the grocery store or plan on making multiple stops, keep frozen/refrigerated foods in a cooler or other cooling container.
• Don’t leave hot or cold food out for more than 2 hours (1 hour in hot weather).
Other Tips:
• Defrost food in the microwave or refrigerator.  Do not leave it out at room temperature. The outer portion will thaw first and may spend too much time in a bacteria-growing temperature.
• Avoid cross-contamination.  Use separate cutting boards, knives, spatulas, etc., for handling raw meat and other ready-to-eat foods; for example, do not slice raw chicken and then use the same knife to slice a tomato without washing the knife in between.
• Replace cutting boards with cracks and cuts because bacteria can hide there.
• Replace dish rags and sponges often.

Although these guidelines may seem simple, they are often forgotten or ignored.  Begin now to create habits for safe food handling and promote these techniques within your family.  By using caution and a little more preparation if needed, you can ensure a safe, delicious and enjoyable experience with your loved ones this summer.

Brooke Parker is a registered dietitian currently working for Utah State University.  Her specialty is eating disorders. She is in the process of writing a book on guilt-free eating and positive body image. Brooke is a wife and mother of three. © 2009

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