Making a cleaning list and checking it twice

Individuals, in their own homes can reduce bacteria and keep food safe by following these principles: Clean, separate, cook and chill.

It is that time of the year where some of us are making extra food, filling the refrigerators and freezers with treats for guests, and spending more time in the kitchen area than usual to keep up with the demand for regular meals and the extra baking too. As the designated chef of your home are you taking into consideration the four basic food safety principles to reduce the risk of foodborne illness? Perhaps not, you are more than likely reaching for a fresh baked cookie and a glass of cold milk as you move on to the next task on your to do list! Individuals, in their own homes can reduce bacteria and keep food safe by following these principles: Clean, separate, cook and chill. Sounds easy right? 

When it comes to cleaning, we all know the importance of handwashing, washing produce before consuming and washing work surfaces before preparing food. But have you considered at least once a week throwing out refrigerated foods that should no longer be eaten? This means leftovers should be discarded after four days; raw poultry and ground meats, one to two days if you have not used them. Also how long has it been since you have really cleaned your appliances? Cleaning the inside, outside and underneath, paying attention to buttons, knobs and handles where cross-contamination can occur. While you are cleaning don’t forget the drawer pulls and cupboard handles in the kitchen as well. 

Separating takes on new meaning when you shop. Take time to place your seafood, meat and poultry in separate plastic bags while shopping so the juices don’t leak onto your food or other people’s food on the check-out line at the store. Once home keep meat, poultry, seafood and eggs separate from all other foods in the refrigerator, taking care not to place dripping meats over ready to eat foods.

Cooking sounds simple doesn’t it; most of us do it every day. How many of us regularly use a food thermometer to ensure that food is safely cooked and that cooked food is held at safe temperatures? Most of us have this device but it remains in our kitchen drawer, pull it out and use it! Once you start using this little gadget, make sure you know the temperatures you should be cooking food to, to prevent illness.

  • All raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops and roasts cook to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Allow the meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or eating.
  • Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb and veal to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F.
  • Cook all poultry, including ground turkey and chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

Finally cooling, keep all cold foods at 40 degrees F or colder. This can be done by placing an ice filled bowl under the bowl of food you are setting out for a buffet, or keeping foods in the refrigerator until it is time to serve. Remember to chill leftovers as soon as possible to prevent bacteria from growing and making them unsafe to reuse. Also never thaw foods at room temperature. 

Michigan State University Extension recommends you follow these four principles to keep your food safe and your family healthy. Simple precautions can reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

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