Home Food Safety, This Summer and All Year Round | Rachel Begun, MS, RD

While you are used to me sharing information about safe gluten free eating, preventing food borne illness is just as important. In fact, almost 3,000 people die every year from food borne disease. So, I’m dedicating this post to sharing important tips for safe home cooking, which is particularly important in the summer as we take our food outside in the warm weather.

Remember these tips in order to keep your family and guests safe from food borne illness:

Wash Hands Often

Proper hand washing can eliminate nearly half of all cases of food poisoning.  Make sure to wash your hands in warm, soapy water before preparing all foods and after handling raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs.  Clean your hands up to your wrists and between fingers and under your fingernails for 20 seconds, or the equivalent of singing “Happy Birthday” twice.

Hand Washing

Also remember to wash all kitchen surfaces, countertops, cutting boards and utensils with hot, soapy water or in the dishwashing machine.

Keep Raw Meats Separate from Other Foods
Use two cutting boards: one strictly for cutting raw meat, poultry and seafood; and the other for ready-to-eat foods, such as breads, fruits and vegetables.  Purchasing color-coded boards can be very helpful.  Some even use an indelible pen to clearly identify which is which. Never place cooked food back onto a board that previously held raw food and wasn’t thoroughly sanitized. Cutting boards should be thoroughly washed in hot, soapy water or run through the dishwasher.  Discard boards with nicks, cuts, cracks and crevices, as bacteria can grow there.

Make sure raw meat, poultry and seafood is kept separate from other food in your grocery cart and grocery bags, including reusable totes.  Store raw meats below other foods in your refrigerator and freezer.


Always Cook to Proper Temperatures
There is no such thing as eyeballing when a piece of meat is ready.  Relying on the color of meat or “waiting for the juices to clear” cannot ensure the prevention of food borne illness.  A food thermometer is the only way to ensure food is cooked and kept at a safe temperature until eaten.  They are inexpensive and easily found in grocery and kitchen supply stores.

For a list of safe cooking temperatures for a wide variety of foods, visit www.homefoodsafety.org.


Refrigerate Promptly to 40 Degrees Fahrenheit or Below
Quickly refrigerate or freeze foods at their safe temperature to prevent bacteria from growing and potentially causing food poisoning.  Always keep your refrigerator at 40 degrees F or below and your freezer at 0 degrees F or below.  Once a food gets into the danger zone of 40-140 degrees F for more than two hours (or one hour if temperature is above 90 degrees F), it is no longer safe to eat and MUST BE THROWN OUT. This two hour window includes the time that food sits in the grocery cart, grocery bags and in the car or on the kitchen counter.

All of these tips are easy and inexpensive to implement, so make sure you take the proper precautions to keep your friends and family safe this summer, and all year round.  For more information about Home Food Safety, a collaboration between The Academy of Nutrition an Dietetics and ConAgra Foods, visit www.homefoodsafety.org.


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