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Harmful Bacteria in Your Kitchen

Aug 17, 2007
Many people do not practice effective food safety procedures until a food-related illness affects them or someone they know. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 76 million people get sick each year from foodborne illnesses. Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria and Staphyloccus are the most common forms of bacteria that may be hiding in your kitchen.

Unfortunately, these bacteria and other pathogens may also be hiding in your food. A 1997 study at the University of Georgia found that even when fresh vegetables were sprayed with an industry-accepted chlorine solution, it was not enough to eliminate these bacteria.

What can you do to prevent contracting an illness through food? Here are some tips to help keep your kitchen safe.

1. Always wash your hands in warm, soapy water before and after preparing food.

2. Avoid contamination from raw meat (including poultry and fish). The juice from raw meat contains harmful bacteria and can make you very ill. Keep raw and cooked meat separated at all times! Use one cutting board to prepare meat and a different cutting board to prepare other foods. Anything that has touched raw meat should be washed thoroughly with warm soapy water. Do not use the same plates, utensils, etc. to work with cooked meat. Separate raw meat from other foods in your refrigerator and place it on the bottom shelf so that there is less chance of juices dripping onto food below. Placing raw meats in plastic bags or containers will also help to prevent dripping. After marinating raw meat, do not use the marinade on cooked foods unless you boil the marinade first.

3. Fruit and vegetables: Wash thoroughly before preparing. Scrub fruits and veggies with a brush if you are not going to remove the skin. Cut away any bruised or damaged areas of the food. Bacteria can thrive in this area.

4. Kitchen surfaces: You ca not see bacteria, so you will never know if they are on kitchen counters, cutting boards, utensils, dishcloths and your hands! Although bacteria may be out of sight, do not let them out of your mind when you are in the kitchen! Wash utensils and cutting boards before each use, especially if you are using utensils for multiple food items. Wipe down countertops with an anti-bacterial solution and paper towels. If you use a dishcloth or sponge, make sure you run it through the dishwasher frequently. Combine 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach with 1 quart of water and pour down the kitchen sink to flush out bacteria once or twice a week.

5. Fridge rules! Bacteria thrive between 40 F and 140 F, so it is important to make sure your refrigerator is colder than 40 F. Refrigerate or freeze perishable items and leftovers within 2 hours. Defrost frozen foods by microwaving them, or by placing them in the refrigerator or in cold water (changing the water every 30 minutes). It is okay to place hot food in the fridge. The sooner you can refrigerate the food the better. To cool large amounts of leftovers quickly but safely, separate in smaller containers before refrigerating. Eat leftovers within 3 days. Leave enough room in the fridge so that the cold air can circulate. Clean the inside of your fridge weekly with warm, soapy water (do not use bleach). Raw fish will keep in the fridge for 24 hours. Raw poultry or ground beef will keep in the fridge for 1-2 days. Raw red meat will keep for 3-5 days in the fridge.

6. Picnics and BBQs: For those of you who will be eating outside this summer, here are some handy tips to prevent food-related illnesses. Keep all perishable food chilled right up until serving/cooking time. Be especially careful with dairy foods, if they can not be kept cold until it is time to eat, do not serve them. Whenever possible, place perishable food on ice for the duration of the meal. If you ca not use ice, efrigerate (or discard) food after 2 hours. (1 hour if the weather is warmer than 90 F). If you are serving hot food, it should be kept at a temperature higher than 140 F. Insulated thermal containers or heated buffet trays may work well for this purpose. If you are travelling in a car, keep the food in a cooler with you in the car rather than the hot trunk. Wipe down lunchboxes or coolers after each use.

7. Keep hot food
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