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Do you have tips on safe food handling techniques?

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, foodborne illnesses affect millions of people and cause thousands of deaths yearly. Approximately 800,000 illnesses occur in children under the age of 10 each year. Since September is National Food Safety Education Month, now is a good time to renew awareness of safe food handling techniques. Consider these tips when chilling, cleaning, separating and cooking food.

Keep cold foods cold.

* Make sure the refrigerator temperature is 40 F or below and the freezer is 0 F or below.
* Don't overfill the refrigerator. Cool air must be allowed to circulate to keep food safe.
* Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within two hours of purchase or preparation, or within one hour if the temperature is above 90 F. At room temperature, harmful bacteria in food can double every 20 minutes.
* Divide large quantities of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.
* Thaw food in the refrigerator. For quick thawing, submerge in cold water in airtight packaging, or thaw in the microwave and cook the food immediately.
* Keep food out of the temperature danger zone, which is between 40 and 140 F.
* Marinate foods in the refrigerator.
* When transporting food, place cold food in a cooler with ice or commercial freezing gels. Keep the cooler in the coolest part of your car rather than in a hot trunk.

Clean hands, food preparation areas and food properly.

* Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before preparing or eating food.
* Use a plastic or non-porous cutting board, then run it through the dishwasher or wash in hot soapy water after use.
* Use paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces. If you use cloth towels, wash them often on the hot cycle.
* Rinse fruits and vegetables with cold running water before preparing or eating them.
* Wash hands, cutting boards, dishes and utensils with hot soapy water after preparing each food item, especially meats.

Keep food separated so cross-contamination doesn't occur.

* Keep raw meat, fish and poultry wrapped properly in the refrigerator so juices do not drip on other foods.
* Do not place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood.
* Use a separate cutting board for raw meat products.

Cook to proper temperatures.

* Cook ground beef to at least 160 F. Do not eat ground beef that is pink inside. Cook roasts and steaks to at least 145 F, poultry breasts to 170 F and whole poultry to 180 F.
* Bring sauces, soups and gravy to a boil when reheating.
* Rotate food in the microwave to avoid cold spots.
* Cook eggs properly. Cook them until both the yolk and the white are firm. Casseroles and other dishes containing eggs should be cooked to 160 F. Use pasteurized egg products or shell eggs that have been treated to destroy Salmonella for recipes that call for raw or undercooked eggs. Do not eat doughs or batters made with raw eggs.

Posted on 6 Sep 2001

Charlotte Brennand
Food Safety Specialist

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