Food for Thought: Keeping Your Food Safe

Melissa Green PhotoI love to eat new foods and try new recipes. Although I can sometimes be unsure of how to tackle these new items. After all, proper food handling can prevent my culinary creations from getting me sick.

First, keep in mind that not all bacteria are bad. For example, beneficial bacteria are used to make cheese and yogurt. I love cheese, especially blue cheese! Also, this article is not meant to scare you away from foods. Quite the contrary. It will arm you with proper handling information so you can boldly and safely conquer any food!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that roughly 1 in 6 Americans will get sick from a food borne disease each year. That number is shocking! But do not get discouraged. The CDC also says that many illnesses can be prevented by using proper handling and cooking methods. That sounds easy enough! To make sure you and your family have a safe eating experience, use these steps when preparing meats, fruits and vegetables.

safe1. CLEAN. Bacteria, good or bad, can be spread across the kitchen and get onto hands, cutting boards, utensils, and counter tops. To keep harmful bacteria away from your food, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm soapy water before handling any food items. Wash cutting surfaces before preparing food and between food items. It is suggested to rinse fruits and vegetables before eating. Finally, consider using paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces instead of sponges or towels.

2. SEPARATE. To prevent cross contamination, keep your raw meat and eggs away from your ready-to-eat foods in shopping carts, grocery bags, and refrigerators. Never place cooked food on the same plate that previously held raw meat. Use a separate cutting board for raw meat and for fresh produce. Cutting boards come in a lot of colors, so you can easily color coordinate your kitchen. Maybe a red cutting board for meat and green for produce?

3. COOK. My favorite part! The most important tip is the use a food thermometer. This will ensure your food is cooked to a safe internal temperature. For example, steaks and roasts should be cooked to a minimum of 145°F, the equivalent to medium-rare. Poultry items should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165°F. All ground meat items should be cooked to at least 160°F. The next time you’re asked how you want your burger cooked, answer well done!

4. CHILL. And not as in chill out. Avoid defrosting frozen food at room temperature. This is a big no-no. The safest ways to defrost food is in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. And if you have leftovers, be sure to refrigerate them immediately. P

 

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Raised on a ranch in Arbuckle overlooking the Sutter Buttes, Melissa Green holds a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from CSU Chico; she also holds a master’s degree in Meat Science from Colorado State University. Green currently works in Northern California conducting research and development for new meat products. Her passion for educating consumers on the topic of “where our food comes from” enables Green her to pursue a mission in preserving our agricultural heritage.