“Keep it clean” for foodborne illness prevention

Clean hands, utensils and surfaces are critical in preparing safe food.

Keeping your food safe is a big job. From the time you purchase your food at the grocery store, until it is prepared, served and the leftovers are safely refrigerated, good food safety practices are key in preventing the spread of harmful bacteria.

As food moves through your kitchen, unsafe food handling practices can lead to the unintentional spread of bacteria that could cause foodborne illness. The first food safety principle to consider when handling food is “clean.” Keeping it clean includes clean hands, utensils, surfaces and countertops. Bacteria can be spread all over the kitchen by unwashed hands, dirty utensils, surfaces and cutting boards. Once the bacteria are present in your kitchen they can easily be transferred around and contaminate your food.

Clean hands are washed for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap. Keeping hands clean means washing hands properly at the following times:

  • Before preparing food
  • After using the restroom
  • After touching animals
  • After changing diapers
  • When switching from handling raw food to ready to eat food (for example cutting raw chicken, then going to chop vegetables for a salad)
  • After sneezing or coughing
  • After preparing food

Wash all surfaces, countertops and utensils with detergent and rinse. Using a solution of one tablespoon bleach to a gallon of water is a great tool to sanitize your clean countertops, surfaces and utensils. Sanitizing reduces the pathogens (bacteria) on the surface to a safe level.

To determine how well you are doing at keeping it clean, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you wash your hand thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap before preparing food and at other appropriate times?
  • Do you clean and sanitize countertops and surfaces before preparing food?
  • Do you properly clean and sanitize your cutting boards, especially when switching from raw to ready to eat foods?
  • Do you wash fruits and vegetables before consuming?
  • Do you use disposable paper towels when cleaning? Or wash cloth towels often in hot water to prevent the recontamination of clean areas?

For more great tips to help you eliminate germs that can cause foodborne illness, see the Partnership for Food Safety Education’sClean” fact sheet. Keeping it clean is critical to preventing the spread of bacteria that can lead to foodborne illness.

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