There are about 76 million cases of food-borne illness each year in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control. Most of these incidents are preventable. Keep your family safe while you enjoy the food you love with these simple food storage and preparation practices.
Food Storage Practices
1. Maintain your refrigerator at the correct temperature. Use a refrigerator thermometer to stay at a safe level of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Leave plenty of empty space so air can circulate. Freezers work best at 0 degrees or below.
2. Keep foods chilled. Many foods need to be kept chilled to prevent bacteria from growing. Allow meat, eggs and produce to sit at room temperature for no more than two hours – or less than one hour during hot weather.
3. Put produce in the crisper. Stow away produce in the crisper in perforated bags that let gases disperse. Potatoes and onions are two exceptions that need a cool dry space rather than the refrigerator.
4. Seal up raw meat. Wrap up raw meat securely and put it on the bottom shelf. That way, the juices will be less likely to drip onto other foods.
5. Check expiration dates. Focus on “use by” dates that are based on typical usage. Remember that all expire dates are based on unopened packages.
6. Take care of leftovers promptly. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours of cooking. If they’re refrigerated, eat them within 3 to 5 days.
7. Discard older items. Food can be spoiled even if it has no obvious bad odor. Visit websites like the US Department of Agriculture to learn the safe limits, like 3 weeks for eggs fresh in the shell and 3 to 4 months for store bought frozen dinners.
Food Preparation Practices
1. Wash your hands and work surfaces. Wash your hands and work surfaces with hot water and soap. Clean everything when you switch from one food item to the next, especially if you handle raw meat.
2. Rinse all produce. Run tap water liberally over all produce even if the skin is inedible. Use a vegetable brush to scrub soiled spots.
3. Guard against cross-contamination. Keep raw meat and eggs away from other items all the way from your grocery cart to your kitchen counter. Use separate cutting boards for produce and for meat.
4. Get a cooking thermometer. Cooking thermometers are much more reliable than oven temperatures. If you get a reading of 165 degrees Fahrenheit at the center of your roast, it’s likely that you’ve eliminated any harmful bacteria.
5. Defrost properly. Forget about defrosting at room temperature. Use your refrigerator or microwave or submerge food in cold water.
1. Read labels. Government regulations make it easier than ever to spot ingredients that trigger allergies. If you have one or more food sensitivities, check for the 8 most common culprits including milk, wheat, soy, egg, tree nut, peanut, fish and shellfish.
2. Apply similar rules to alcohol. From the sulfites in wine to the gluten and wheat in beers, you may also need to consider your allergies when you drink. In any case, consume alcohol in moderation to maintain a healthy immune system.
3. Ask questions. When dining out, ask your server or host in advance to avoid exposure to your individual allergens. Restaurants are becoming increasingly responsive to these issues and your host may be able to alter their menu to accommodate everybody.
Be smart about the way you handle food. You can prevent food poisoning by following simple safety procedures like keeping your kitchen clean and your food at the correct temperature.