Safe Food Handling At Home
According to the Center for Disease Control, an estimated 76 million cases of foodborne illness occur each year with a corresponding 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths resulting in a $3 billion per year health care cost. Most of these illnesses could have been prevented if safe food handling practices had been applied.
Safe Food Handling for Consumers
Foodborne illnesses are infections of the intestinal tract caused by a variety of bacterial and viral pathogens. The foods your family eats can become contaminated with these pathogens during any point in the food preparation process. You cannot tell if a food is contaminated by smelling, tasting or looking at it. Therefore, it is best to treat all foods as if they are contaminated and adopt safe food handling and preparation routines in your home.
An Invisible Enemy
Millions of bacteria are ready to invade food products, kitchen surfaces, knives and utensils in your home. But you have the power to "Fight Bac"! It's as easy as following these four simple steps:
CLEAN: Wash hands and surfaces often
According to food safety experts, bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get on to cutting boards, knives,sponges and counter tops. Here's how to Fight BAC:
Wash hands in hot soapy water before preparing food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers and handling pets. For best results, consumers
should use warm water to moisten their hands and then apply soap and rub their hands together for 20 seconds before rinsing thoroughly.
Wash cutting boards, knives, utensils and counter tops in hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before going on to the next one.
Use plastic or other non-porous cutting boards. Cutting boards should be run through the dishwasher - or washed in hot soapy water - after use.
Consider using paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces. Or, if using cloth towels, wash them often in the hot cycle of the washing
SEPARATE: Don't cross-contaminate
Cross-contamination is how bacteria spreads from one food product to another. This is especially true for raw meat, poultry and seafood. Experts caution to keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods. Here's how
consumers can Fight BAC!:
Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other food in the grocery shopping cart.
Store raw meat, poultry and seafood on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so juices don?t drip onto other foods.
If possible, use one cutting board for raw meat products and another for salads and other foods which are ready to be eaten.
Always wash cutting boards, knives and other utensils with hot soapy water after they come in contact with raw meat, poultry and seafood.
Never place cooked food on a plate which previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood.
COOK: Cook to proper temperatures
Food safety experts agree that foods are properly cooked when they are heated for a long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness. The best way to Fight BAC is to:
Use a meat thermometer, which measures the internal temperature of cooked meat and poultry, to make sure that the meat is cooked all the way through.
Cook roasts and steaks to at least 145°F. Whole poultry should be cooked to 180°F for doneness.
Cook ground meat, where bacteria can spread during grinding, to at least 160°F.
Cook fish until it is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.
Make sure there are no cold spots in food (where bacteria can survive) when cooking in a microwave oven. For best results, cover food, stir and rotate for
even cooking. If there is no turntable, rotate the dish by hand once or twice during cooking.
Bring sauces, soups and gravy to a boil when reheating. Heat other leftovers thoroughly to 165°F.
CHILL: Refrigerate promptly
Food safety experts advise consumers to refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying. So, public health officials recommend setting the refrigerator at 40°F and the
freezer unit at 0°F and occasionally checking these temperatures with an appliance thermometer. Then, Fight BAC by following these steps:
Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within two hours.
Never defrost (or marinate) food on the kitchen counter. Use the refrigerator, cold running water or the microwave.
Divide large amounts of leftovers into small, shallow containers for quick cooling in the refrigerator.
With poultry and other stuffed meats, remove the stuffing and refrigerate it in a separate container.
Don't pack the refrigerator. Cool air must circulate to keep food safe.
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