September is National Food Safety Education Month! Most of foodborne diseases are infections caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can be found in contaminated food.
The 4 Steps to Food Safety
There are four main steps to help keep food safe:
Keeping clean when cooking and preparing food is important. Remember to:
- Wash your hands before and after handling food
- Clean cutting boards and utensils
- Wash all surfaces that have come in contact with potentially hazardous foods
Separating different types of foods (like raw meats and ready-to-eat fruits) can help prevent cross-contamination.
- Use separate cutting boards for foods
- Keep raw meats away from other foods in your shopping cart
- Store ready-to-eat foods above raw meats and eggs in the refrigerator
Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of cooked foods.
Chill foods quickly and keep them below 41°F to help keep foods safe. Also, store foods in refrigerator in proper order to help prevent cross contamination:
- Ready-to-eat and pre-cooked foods (store at top of fridge)
- Eggs, fish, whole meats (beef, pork, lamb)
- Ground beef, ground pork
- Poultry (store at bottom of fridge)
Most Common Food Safety Mistakes
According to foodsafety.gov, here are some of the most common food safety mistakes to avoid:
- Not washing your hands.
Sixty-five percent of consumers don’t wash their hands before starting meal preparation. You should wash your hands (for at least 20 seconds) with warm water and soap before and after handling food. Germs on your hands can contaminate the food you and your family eats.
- Eating raw cookie dough (or other foods with uncooked eggs).
Uncooked eggs can contain Salmonella or other harmful bacteria. It takes just 15 to 20 tiny cells in undercooked food to cause food poisoning.
- Undercooking meat, poultry, seafood or eggs.
Food must be cooked to a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria. Use a food thermometer to ensure food reaches a safe internal temperature.
- Thawing food on the counter.
Bacteria can multiply rapidly at room temperature. See Foodsafety.gov’s tips here for thawing food safely.
- Washing raw meat, poultry or eggs.
Doing this can spread bacteria onto your sink, countertops and other surfaces in your kitchen.
- Putting cooked meat, poultry or seafood back on a plate that held raw meat products.
Germs from the raw meat can spread to the cooked meat. Always use separate plates for raw meat and cooked meat.
- Tasting food to see if it’s still good.
You can’t taste, smell or see the bacteria that cause food poisoning, and tasting a tiny amount can cause illness.
- Letting food cool before putting it in the fridge.
Illness-causing bacteria can grow in perishable foods within two hours unless you refrigerate them.
- Marinating meat or seafood on the counter.
Harmful germs in meat or seafood can multiply extremely fast at room temperature. Always marinate meat or seafood in the refrigerator.
- Using raw meat marinade on cooked food.
Germs from the raw meat or seafood can spread to the cooked food. You can reuse marinade only if you bring it to a boil just before using.