Good health is more than just watching your calories and fat intake. Food safety is integral to your day-to-day health, and might help you avoid being among the 76 million people affected every year by foodborne illness, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of that number, 325,000 lead to hospitalization and 5,000 death, according to the CDC.
Some basic home food safety habits can help keep foods safe and reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Bacteria are the cause of many foodborne illnesses, and more times than not, improper food handling is the culprit.
The first food safety habit is to keep everything clean. Bacteria can spread quickly in the kitchen, and easily get on hands, utensils, cutting boards and the counters. Frequent cleaning can prevent the spreading of bacteria. Start with clean hands by washing thoroughly with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. The counters should be washed with hot soapy water before and after food preparation.
Appliances also must be kept clean. Always wash hands, utensils and cutting boards before and after contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs. Utensils and cutting boards can be washed in the dishwasher or in the sink with hot soapy water. Fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed with plenty of running cold water before cutting. This includes those with skins and rinds that are not eaten. If they are not washed, the knife can contaminate the inside with bacteria from the outside skin or rind. Firm skinned fruits and vegetables can be scrubbed with a clean produce brush while rinsing with cold water. A salad spinner is excellent for draining the water from salad greens. Salad dressing will adhere much better when greens are dry.
Use separate dish cloths and sponges for washing the dishes and cleaning the counters. These should be changed frequently. Dish cloths and towels should be washed in the hot cycle of the washing machine and kitchen sponges should be replaced frequently.
Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods. These foods should be well sealed and stored on the bottom shelf or in the meat bin in the refrigerator. This helps to keep juices from contaminating other foods. Have one cutting board to use with raw meat, poultry and seafood and another to be used for fruits, vegetables, salad ingredients and other ready-to-eat foods or ingredients.
Avoid cross-contaminating. This can happen when a cutting board or utensil comes in contact with raw meat, poultry or seafood and then in contact and with another food or with something else that comes in contact with another food. For example, avoid using the same knife for cutting raw meat and then cutting vegetables to go in a salad. Never use the same platter for holding raw meat or chicken to go on the grill and then again to hold the cooked product. And never use the same fork or utensil for placing the raw food on the grill and for removing the cooked food.
Wash reusable cloth shopping bags in the washing machine regularly. If they are not machine washable, they can be washed by hand with hot soapy water. Use separate shopping bags for raw meat, poultry and seafood and be sure they are well wrapped in separate plastic bags before being placed in the shopping bag. This helps prevent the juice from leaking and contaminating the reusable bag and other food.
It is also important to thoroughly wash insulated lunch bags to prevent bacteria growth in them which can contaminate the contents.
Cook food to the proper temperature to kill harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Use a clean food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of food such as meat, poultry, egg dishes and casseroles to be sure they are thoroughly cooked. Never eat raw eggs or anything containing raw eggs. If a recipe calls for raw eggs use a liquid pasteurized egg substitute.
Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. The ideal temperature for harmful bacteria to grow rapidly is between 40 degrees and 140 degrees F. Hot foods on a buffet table should be held at 140 degrees F or higher. Foods can be kept hot in slow cookers or warming trays.
Leftovers should be chilled within two hours. Divide food into shallow containers for more rapid cooling and then refrigerate. Never let raw meat, poultry, eggs, cooked food or cut up fruits and vegetables be at room temperature for more than two hours before refrigerating. Be sure the refrigerator is 40 degrees F or below. Do not overstuff the refrigerate preventing cold air from circulating around the food. Use an appliance thermometer to check the temperature inside the refrigerator.
Chicken Caesar salad
This recipe makes 6 servings
12 ounces cooked leftover chicken breast or 1 pound raw chicken breasts
12 cups cut or torn romaine lettuce leaves
24 cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup reduce fat crumbled feta cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil
11/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Nutrition Information: This recipe makes 6 servings. Each serving contains approximately 199 calories and 10 grams fat.
IF YOU GO
Join Becky for cooking classes at Buy For Less and Uptown Grocery Co. Learn with Brunch featuring Creamed Beef on Toasted English Muffins and an Edible Watermelon Centerpiece at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at Uptown Grocery Co., 1230 W Covell Road, in Edmond. Learn with Lunch featuring Summer Salad, Pomadoro Chicken with Whole Wheat Pasta and Watermelon Cake at noon Aug. 14 at the Buy For Less at 3501 NW Expressway. Class size is limited, call 302-6273, ext. 332, for reservations.