Friday, August 5, 2011

Be Food Safe.

Do You Practice Food Safety?

Do you think about food safety; if so, when? Do you only think about it when you go out to eat? Have you considered your own food practices and ways to prevent food borne illnesses in your home? I have food safety permanently drilled into my brain due to my education and training as a dietitian. My family and friends witness me practicing food safety during our gatherings that involve food; don’t most all gatherings involve food?! They may think “she’s so helpful to quickly help clean up and put the leftover foods away.” But in reality my mind is calculating the time it’s been out at room temperature. If it’s to be eaten again, I want it back in the fridge well before the time limit of 2 hours. Two hours at room temperature gives bacteria a chance at growth and making us sick.

Recently, the US Department of Health and Human Services has launched a “Be Food Safe” campaign to educate the public on 4 food safety areas: Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill. The Ad Campaign created funny and memorable TV commercials for each category. You can check them out at For more food safety information that you can apply in your home, the American Dietetic Association has teamed up with ConAgra Foods to create the “Home Food Safety” website: I’ve included some of my personal kitchen food safety tips for you:
  • Start with clean hands and clean surfaces (counter tops, cutting boards, cooking dishes, etc.)
    • Always have dish soap and hand soap next to the kitchen sink. Try to keep the kitchen sink for cooking tasks (I direct my husband to the bathroom sink when he comes up from the garage with dirty hands).
    • I keep a stash of disinfecting wipes and sanitizing spray next to the kitchen sink. I wipe the counter down with the wipes when I have chicken, meat, or egg juices on the counter. I mostly use the sanitizing spray to spray down the sink (after defrosting chicken in a bowl with running water, throwing the egg shells in the sink to go into the garbage disposal, etc.).
  • Wash ALL fruits and vegetables even if you are going to peel or cut them up; you can drag bacteria that is on the surface inside while the knife slices through.
    • I love using my salad spinner for washing small fruits like strawberries or blueberries. I fill the container with the basket still inside with water to soak the fruit (for about 2-5 minutes). Pull the basket out to drain the water off, return to the spinner and spin off more water, and then put on a clean dish towel to finish off the drying process.
    • I keep a vegetable scrub brush near the sink and have it clearly marked with “Veggies,” so it doesn’t get used for regular household cleaning tasks.
  • Regularly wash your reusable grocery bags and wash the one that meat is transported in more frequently.

  • It’s best to have two separate cutting boards: one for your meats/poultry and one for your fruits/vegetables. However, I know two cutting boards may not practical for all kitchens. My grandmother’s smart solution was to use a permanant marker to write “meats” on one side and “fruits/ vegetables” on the other side of her cutting board. Cut the fruits/ vegetables first and save the meats until last to prevent their juices from contaminating your fruits and vegetables.
  • Keep your “drippy” things, like meat and chicken, on the bottom shelf with a bowl or plate under them to catch the juice; you don’t want it to drip on your other foods.
  • Make sure your “drippy” things get bagged separately at the grocery store too.

  • Buy a meat thermometer. They are not very expensive and you don’t have to memorize what type of meat has to be cooked to what temperature because it will have it on the thermometer dial. Don’t forget to use it!

  • Living in hot Georgia, I worry about the transportation of my perishable foods. I keep a neoprene market tote in my car so I always have an insulated bag for my cold items. I have a cheap Styrofoam cooler and ice packs (in the freezer) at work so I can pick up some grocery items during my lunch break and know they can survive the drive home with the stop by daycare to pick up my daughter.
  • Remember my above 2 hour time limit? Get perishables in the fridge in less than 2 hours. If it’s a large batch of food, you will want to put it in several small dishes or in a shallow dish to allow it to cool quickly. The 2 hour rule also applies to outings like picnics or tailgating. You may want to limit your perishables (and eat them first) or make sure you have a way to keep them out of “the danger zone” (40-140 degrees F).
  • Now once that food is safely in the refrigerator, how long should it stay there? That’s where this handy-dandy “Refrigerator Calculator” is a great thing to have. You can download yours here: I wish it was available as a magnet (hint, hint Home Food Safety).
  • Home Food Safety also has a refrigerator/freezer storage guide for fresh food here:

I hope you have learned something new or remembered something forgotten. For more food safety tips, go to http://www.

“For helping spread the word about the importance of home food safety, I was entered into a drawing for a $15 Starbucks gift card and an iPad through Summertime Food Smarts, a contest run by the American Dietetic Association and ConAgra Foods' Home Food Safety program. Home Food Safety is dedicated to raising consumer awareness about the seriousness of foodborne illness and providing solutions for easily and safely handling foods. Learn more at"


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