You pay attention to how many vegetables you eat, what size portions you eat and how much exercise you get. But do you pay attention to how safe your kitchen is? A safe kitchen is an equally important factor in the pursuit of achieving a healthy lifestyle.
An unsafe kitchen puts you and your family at risk. In fact, poor food handling in the kitchen accounts for the majority of food-borne illnesses.
Reduce the risks by following four simple steps: clean, separate, chill and cook.
Handwashing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of bacteria. Always make sure you thoroughly wash your hands in warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling any food. Pay particular attention to handwashing after handling meat, seafood and poultry and after changing diapers or using the bathroom.
In addition to washing your hands, it is also important to clean and sanitize cutting boards and counter tops before and after food preparation.
Preparing food increases the risk for something known as cross-contamination. This is when bacteria from one food spreads to another. Risk of cross-contamination is highest when handling raw meat, poultry and seafood. Make sure to keep these foods and their juices separate from other foods.
This means using a different cutting board for raw meats, separating raw meats from other foods in your shopping cart and refrigerator and never placing cooked meats back on the plate that previously held uncooked food.
Remember to always thoroughly clean and sanitize any plates, cutting boards or counter tops that came in contact with raw food.
Bacteria grow in what is referred to as the ‘danger zone’. The danger zone is temperatures between 4°C (40°F) and 60°C (140°F), which includes room temperature. It is therefore important to minimize the amount of time that food spends in this range.
Prepared food should never be left out for longer than two hours. As soon as possible, place prepared food in the refrigerator. Transfer food to small, shallow containers as this will allow food to quickly cool in the refrigerator.
When placing food in the refrigerator, make sure the cool air can properly circulate. In other words, don’t overload the fridge.
It is also important to thaw foods in the fridge or in the microwave, and not on counter tops. Remember, bacteria thrive at room temperature.
When thawing raw meats in the fridge, place them on the bottom shelf. This reduces the risk of raw juices contaminating other foods in the fridge.
Refrigeration is important to slow the growth of bacteria but only proper cooking will actually kill bacteria. Ensure food is cooked thoroughly and to the proper temperature. In order to ensure that the internal temperature of your food is adequate, use a meat thermometer. (Refer to the chart on page 8 for proper internal temperatures of foods).
Once food is cooked, serve it right away. This decreases the time that food spends in the danger zone. If foods are to be served buffet-style, make sure the temperature of the food is maintained above 60°C (140°F) through the use of warming trays and crock pots.
All it takes is four simple steps – clean, separate, chill and cook – to make food safer for you and your family.
To add extra protection, use a bleach sanitizer when cleaning cutting boards and counter tops. To make the bleach sanitizer, combine 5 mL (1 tsp) of bleach with 750 mL (3 cups) of water. Pour into a spray bottle. Label the bottle and keep out of reach of children.
Spray onto surfaces and let stand briefly. Rinse the surface with clean water and let it air dry.