Bacterial food poisoning is becoming more common in the US. Some experts estimate that over 76 million cases occur each year.
Many people think that when we suffer from sickness and tummy upset, it is the result of germs picked up from outside the home.
In fact, most germs are actually picked up in the home and is a direct result of poor kitchen hygiene, with germs from raw foods (including meat, poultry, eggs, fish and seafood, raw fruit and vegetables) being transferred to kitchen surfaces or other foods whilst preparing meals, or food not being cooked properly.
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Food and Kitchen Hygiene
By following a few simple household precautions, you can greatly reduce your family’s chances of food poisoning.
- Check your kitchen appliances and ensure that the fridge and freezer thermostats are working properly. Also, make sure that they are set on the correct temperature for food storage- your fridge should be set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit (or less) and setting the freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit is effective at stopping bacteria growth.
- Always put perishable food items in the fridge or freezer immediately after use and within two hours of cooking. Leftovers can then be safely eaten within a few days.
- Keep your countertops and appliances clean. Utilize anti-bacterial cleansing products- especially after handling of raw meat. Wash hands thoroughly with hot water and always dispose of used paper towels immediately after use. Sponges can be decontaminated by wetting and microwaving them for 30 seconds; towels and rags should be laundered in hot water.
- When cleaning, do not forget to sanitize the kitchen sink! Pouring diluted bleach down the sink and garbage disposal will help to kill any lingering bacteria.
- Kitchen cross-contamination is a serious food safety issue. Raw meat or fish should never come in contact with other foods. Choose your cutting board wisely: make sure that it does not have a porous surface and place in the dishwasher after use.
- When cooking for your family, utilize a meat thermometer. Veal, beef, pork, and most seafood should be cooked to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Chicken and turkey breasts should be cooked to at least 180 degrees Fahrenheit, while ground chicken and ground turkey should be cooked to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Salmonella bacteria are spread through egg shells, so cook eggs or any food containing egg product thoroughly. Only buy refrigerated eggs and always store eggs in the fridge. Both egg and yolk should be firm when cooking eggs whole; scrambled eggs should be cooked until you cannot see any liquid egg. Do not consume any raw baking batter or other foods containing egg until cooked thoroughly.
By safely handling food in your kitchen, you can significantly decrease your family’s risk of foodborne illness. Above all, remember to wash hands and utensils often, keep raw meats and prepared foods separately, cook foods thoroughly, and refrigerate foods promptly.
By following those simple steps, you can help keep your family safe from food bacteria.