Don’t let Bacteria Get You: Handling Food Safely

How many times have we forgotten to put milk back in the refrigerator or taken meat out of the freezer and throw it on the counter to defrost for dinner?  Unfortunately these two common mistakes can lead to food borne illnesses caused by bacteria.  Unpleasant symptoms include abdominal pain with fever, diarrhea, muscle weakness, nausea, and vomiting, to name a few, and all can easily be avoided by following a few easy steps.

Here are four easy steps that you can take to ensure that you are handling your food in a safe manner:

1) WASH- Make sure you wash, wash, wash your hands, especially if you take a break from cooking to go to the bathroom, change a diaper, or pet Rover.  This goes for cutting boards and counter tops too when you move from one dish to another.  Anytime you touch raw meat it is important for you to wash your hands with soap and water as bacteria can end up on everything you’ve touched, even down to the utensils you used.

2) SEPARATE- By separating raw meat, poultry, and seafood from your other food you are preventing bacteria from getting you.  It’s easier to use the same cutting board for your meats inside of grabbing a clean one but this lazy behavior can result in cross-contamination with your other food.  Make sure your meat juices don’t come into contact with other foods that you’ve already cooked or that you don’t place food onto cutting boards or plates that meat has also touched.

3) COOK- It’s important to cook meat to the appropriate temperature.  In general, steak is at its rarest at 130 degrees; is medium at 140, and well done at 150.  Hamburger and poultry are safe at 165 degrees while fish should be cooked til it’s not pink any more and it flakes.  Leftovers should be reheated til it reaches 165 also.  Anything below these temperatures (in Farenheit) will increase your chances of getting sick from undercooked meat.

4) CHILL-Keeping foods refrigerated is key when ensuring safety of your foods.  Raw poultry and hamburger in the refrigerator for longer than a day or two or cooked for three to four can be cause for concern.  Raw meat in the refrigerator can last three to five days raw but if it starts to turn color or emit a bad odor then throw it out sooner.  Rule of thumb: never thaw frozen meats, poultry, fish, and casseroles and then refreeze!  Also, anything left out of the refrigerator for more than two hours need to be tossed right away.

Other TIPS to stop bacteria in its track:

Keep your refrigerator set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit

Put your leftovers in the refrigerator as soon as you finish eating

Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables and pat dry to prevent more bacteria from collecting

(Here’s the hardest one)  Stay away from eating too much cookie dough with raw egg in it – This will increase your risk of getting salmonella poisoning.

By simply practicing proper cooking and handling of food, you can stop bacteria from getting you.

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