September is food safety month

Food Safety Month isn’t just about keeping food safe in restaurants; it should also be practiced at home.

Graphic from CDC showing cartoon chef and the following text:
Photo: CDC.

Happy National Food Safety Month, or if you visit the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC's) website, Happy Food Safety Education Month! Regardless of what it's called, the month of September has been designated as the month that experts promote food safety to the food service industry and consumers. National Food Safety Month was created in 1994 by the National Restaurant Association to heighten awareness about the importance of food safety education. This year’s theme for the food service industry focuses on knowing how to properly clean, sanitize and disinfect.

Whether in a restaurant or your own kitchen, it is important to keep food safety in the forefront of your mind, as it is your best defense against foodborne illness. Running your home kitchen with the same guidelines that restaurants run theirs will enable you to stay ahead of the pathogens. Michigan State University Extension suggests following these tips to keep your kitchen clean:

  • Make sure everyone washes their hands. It is the best line of defense in your home. Washing front, back, in between fingers and under fingernails is very important. Use warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after every step in preparing (handling raw meat, poultry, fish or eggs).
  • Clean all work surfaces to remove food particles and spills. Use hot, soapy water and rinse. Keep non-food items such as mail, newspapers and book bags off countertops and away from food and utensils. Wash the counter carefully before and after food preparation, as well as cupboard knobs, drawer pulls, appliance handles and other surfaces commonly touched.
  • Wash dishes, cutting boards and pots and pans in a dishwasher or in hot, soapy water, making sure to rinse well. Keep in mind dishes that have become chipped or cracked can harbor bacteria and should be discarded.
  • Plastic or wooden cutting boards that have deep knife scars or cracks should be replaced, as should torn spatulas or cracked utensil handles.
  • Kitchen towels and dishcloths should be changed often and washed in the hot cycle of the washing machine. If these cleaning and drying cloths are left damp, they are an excellent place for bacteria to grow. Sponges should be washed frequently in a bleach-water solution and discarded once they become soiled and difficult to clean.
  • It is important to clean appliances like the refrigerator, freezer, stove and microwave when spills happen, because bacteria can grow quickly if spills aren’t taken care of immediately.
  • When shopping, transport food home quickly to safely store it. Be sure to separate raw foods from ready-to-eat foods and wash out reusable cooler bags and cloth shopping bags.

Food safety might not be on the radar for busy families on a regular basis, but instilling daily cleaning schedules and practicing safe cooking and food preparation can go a long way in helping your family avoid foodborne illness. For more information, visit MSU Extension’s Safe Sanitizing and Disinfecting fact sheet. 

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