September is food safety month

Food Safety Month isn’t just restaurant safe food practices; it should be done at home also.

Happy National Food Safety Month, or if you check another source Happy Food Safety Education Month! Regardless of the source, the month of September has been designated as the month food safety 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 the awareness about the importance of food safety education. Each year a new theme and free training activities are created for restaurants and the industry to help reinforce proper food safety practices and procedures. Other agencies such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Con Agra have teamed up to promote useful information for busy families to use.

In a study done by International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC), it was found that government agencies and health officials are the most trusted sources for food safety information. According to the 2014 IFIC Foundation Food and Health Survey, consumers are mindful about many of their own food safety actions, but the data also revealed room for improvement, such as the fact that 42 percent of consumers wrongly believe that food containing Salmonella bacteria cannot be made safe to eat (cooking meats to the proper temperature is a highly effective safe food handling practice).

Focusing on the family angle, it is important to keep food safety in the forefront; it is your best defense against food poisoning. Running your home kitchen with the same rules restaurants run theirs by will enable you to stay ahead of the bacteria. Michigan State University Extension suggests following these tips to keep the kitchen clean from top to bottom:

  • Making sure everyone washes their hands. This is the best line of defense in your house! Washing front, back, in between fingers and under finger nails is very important. Using warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after every step in preparing (handling raw meat, poultry, fish or eggs) or eating foods is important too.
  • Clean all work surfaces to remove food particles and spills. Use hot, soapy water. Keep non-food items – mail, newspapers book bags etc. off countertops and away from food and utensils. Wash the counter carefully before and after food prep, 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 become bacteria collectors and should be discarded.
  • Plastic or wooden cutting boards that have deep knife scars or cracks should be replaced as well as torn spatulas or cracked utensil handles.
  • Kitchen towels and dishcloths should be changed often (daily during hot days if the home doesn’t have air conditioning) and washed in the hot cycle of the washing machine. If these cleaning and drying cloths are left damp, they can become an excellent place for bacteria to multiply. Sponges should be washed frequently in a bleach-water solution and discarded once they become soiled and unable to clean.
  • It is important to clean appliances, the refrigerator, freezer, stove and microwave when spills happen. Bacteria can grow in these places quickly if spills aren’t taken care of immediately.
  • Cook food thoroughly.
  • Practice the two hour rule, (or one hour if temps are above 90 degrees Fahrenheit), food should be cooked, served and put away within two hours to prevent bacteria from multiplying quickly and making the food unsafe.
  • When shopping, transport food home quickly to safely store, separating raw foods from ready to eat foods, wash out re-usable cooler bags and cloth shopping bags.

Food safety might not be on the radar for busy families on a regular basis. Instilling daily cleaning schedules, practicing safe cooking and food preparation, these steps can go a long way in helping your family avoid food poisoning.

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