By Cooper Temple
September is National Food Safety Month! For us at PathSensors, this month represents a chance to spread some knowledge about food safety and pass along food safety tips we’ve gained as leaders in the food pathogen testing industry. With outbreaks at familiar brands like Chipotle and Subway appearing frequently in the news, many Americans are concerned about food safety. And rightfully so – one in six of us will contract a foodborne illness each year! Protect yourself from nasty pathogens by following the 10 food safety tips we’ve laid out below.
1. Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize
It’s important to make sure the surfaces you’re using to cook are clear of all bacteria. We suggest mixing a tablespoon of chlorine bleach with a gallon of water to make a quick and easy sanitation solution. Spray off countertops before and after cooking.
2. Wash your hands – more than once!
Everyone knows that it’s important to wash your hands before you begin cooking. But do you always wash after handling raw meat or eggs? Touching these foods can quickly contaminate surfaces, produce, and other products, so make sure you wash for 20 seconds in warm soapy water before diving into the next stage of your meal prep.
3. Don’t cross-contaminate, separate!
Like we mentioned above, it’s important not to spread bacteria from food to food using your hands. Well, it’s important not to spread disease on the surfaces you’re working on, too! Always ensure that you’re using separate cutting boards and utensils to prepare raw meat and vegetables.
4. Keep pink chicken out of the kitchen
It can be difficult to figure out when chicken is fully cooked, and there’s a fine line between rubbery and dry. To make sure your chicken (and other meats) are fully cooked, we suggest using a food thermometer to monitor the internal temperatures of your meals. Here’s a quick guide to follow based on the USDA guide to safe temperatures:
Are you cooking … ?
- Fish: cook to at least 145°F
- Beef, veal, or lamb (as steaks or roasts): cook to at least 145°F
- Pork or ground beef: cook to at least 160°F
- Poultry, including chicken and turkey: cook to at least 165°F
5. Clean the fridge (even if it’s gross)
Remember those leftovers you swore you’d eat that are now buried at the back of the fridge? As much as we’d just like to forget about them and hope they disappear, old leftovers and expired food can become breeding grounds for dangerous bacteria. Try to do a clean sweep of your fridge at least once per month to make sure the rest of your safe, edible food stays safe.
6. Wash your veggies
Raw veggies, especially leafy greens, are the most common sources of dangerous pathogens such as listeria, salmonella, and E.coli. Thoroughly wash your vegetables with water before making a salad or serving them on a platter. You can also find veggie washes at stores like Trader Joe’s that rid your produce of both bacteria and pesticides.
7. Replace your sponges
Even though they’re in constant contact with water and soap, sponges can harbor serious bacteria. Common wisdom used to suggest microwaving or boiling your sponges to rid them of germs, but new research has shown that this can actually increase the presence of some bacteria. Rather than risk contaminating your dishes with E.coli and salmonella, just replace your sponges every few weeks – future you will thank you!
8. Read the news
It’s important to stay up to date with the latest food safety news and product recalls so that you know if something you purchased could be contaminated. We recommend following our Twitter and reading the Food Safety News publications.
9. Heat up those leftovers
If it was cooked, it probably means it’s best served warm! The USDA suggests heating up all cooked leftovers to a temperature of at least 165°F to rid them of any bacteria that might have grown in the fridge. Don’t have access to a thermometer at work? We don’t either. A few minutes in the microwave should do the trick.
10. Play it cool
Bacteria love warmth. That’s why it’s important to keep your refrigerator at a temperature of 40°F or colder. If your fridge doesn’t come with a built-in thermometer, you can get one online or at any home furnishings store.