December 16, 2017

Ten Common Food Safety Mistakes

EatRight.org has published the 10 common food safety mistakes mosts people make. Since millions of Americans contract food poisoning every year, and most are not part of an outbreak, it’s important to recognize these mistakes to stop making them.

Kitchen Preparation

The first mistake is tasting food to see if it’s still good. You can’t see, taste, or smell pathogenic bacteria in food, and the texture is not affected by any toxins. It takes just 10 E. coli bacteria to make you sick; that number is invisible in the tiniest bit of food.

The second mistake is putting cooked or ready-to-eat foods on a plate that held raw meat. This cross-contamination can make you very ill. Always use separate plates, cutting boards, and utensil when you are handling raw meats, eggs, poultry, and seafood.

The third mistake is thawing food on the counter. The “danger zone” of bacterial growth occurs in temperatures between 40°F and 140°F. Thawing foods can easily reach that temperature. Always thaw perishable foods in the fridge, or under cool running water or in the microwave with methods suggested by experts.

Mistake number four is washing meat or poultry. Washing and rinsing will not remove any bacteria from these products, but, in fact, will spread bacteria around the kitchen. Bacteria can aerosolize under running water and move up to three feet away. Only wash raw fruits and vegetables, and wash them every time.

The fifth mistake is letting food cool down before you put it in the refrigerator. The fridge is designed to cool food down rapidly to reduce bacterial growth. Transfer food to a shallow containers, using several if you are cooling a large amount, and put in the fridge within a few minutes.

Mistake number six is eating raw cookie dough, cake batter, and other foods containing cooked eggs (and flour). Raw eggs can harbor pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella. And last year, an E. coli O121 and O26 outbreak was linked to General Mills flour.

For mistake number 7, never marinate meat or seafood on the counter. Pathogenic bacteria grow rapidly in the danger zone of 40°F to 140°F. And if  a consumer uses the same marinade on raw and cooked meats or raw vegetables, it can cross-contaminate the raw foods. If you are going to use marinade again, or use it as a sauce, bring it to a full rolling boil just before serving.

Mistake number eight is undercooking meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. these foods should be cooked to safe internal temperatures, and that temperature should be tested with a reliable food thermometer. Post this chart from the USDA on your kitchen cabinets for reference.

Mistake number nine is not washing your hands before you eat or prepare food. Wash your hands with water water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Be sure to wash your hands after you go to the bathroom and after handling raw meats, seafood, poultry, and eggs.

Finally, mistake number ten is not replacing sponges and dish rags. Those items can hold pathogenic bacteria for days and they can be a serious health risk. Sanitize your sponges every other day and replace them every week or two.

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