Did you know that 1 in 6 Americans will get sick from food poisoning during this year alone? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 48 million Americans are affected each year by illness-causing viruses and bacteria from food, resulting in an estimated 128,000 trips to the hospital and almost 3,000 deaths!
And anything—from your countertops, to your cutting board, to your grocery totes—can be a route for food contamination.
But luckily, with a little care in the handling, preparing, and storing of your food, you can avoid any unwanted “dinner guests.” Following are some simple steps to avoid food poisoning.
Clean both food and your work surfaces thoroughly
Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after food handling.
Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next food.
Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten.
Rub firm-skinned fruits and vegetables under running tap water, or scrub them with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing with running tap water.
Separate raw and cooked foods
Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from other foods in your grocery shopping cart and grocery bags, and in your refrigerator.
Use 1 cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs.
Cook foods thoroughly
Cook meats and poultry until they reach a safe internal temperature: 145 degrees F for whole meats, 160 degrees F for ground meats, and 165 degrees F for all poultry.
Cook eggs until the yolks and whites are firm.
When cooking in a microwave oven, cover food, then stir and rotate it for even cooking.
Bring sauces, soups, and gravies to a boil when reheating.
Chill dishes promptly
Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, and other perishables as soon as you get them home from the store. At room temperature, bacteria can double their numbers about once every 20 minutes!
Never let raw meat, poultry, eggs, cooked food, or fresh cut fruits or vegetables sit at room temperature for longer than 2 hours before putting them in the refrigerator or freezer--or 1 hour when the room temperature is above 90 degrees F.
Only defrost food in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave, NEVER at room temperature. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately.
Always marinate foods in the refrigerator.
Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.
REMINDER: There is no way to smell, taste, or look at a food and be able to identify whether it is safe to eat. When in doubt, toss it out!