There’s a lot in the news recently about the spread of bacteria, infections and viruses, with many transmissions occurring through food and food preparation. The kitchen is where we go to nourish ourselves, but it can also be a place full of health hazards. According to the U.S. government, one in six Americans will get sick from food poisoning this year.
Everything from how you prepare food to how you clean up those after-dinner messes can impact not just the quality of your meals, but also play a role in your chances of being infected with Salmonella, e. Coli or Listeria.
The road to good health and a reduced risk of bacteria and viral infections starts in the kitchen, particularly with the following tips:
With today’s busy lifestyles it can be a miracle just to get a meal on the table, which can lead to hurried food preparation, but cross-contamination is one of the primary ways people become sick from food-bourne bacteria. Make sure to use not only separate cutting boards but also plates and utensils, to keep product, meat, poultry, seafood and eggs all away from one another. It’s not just during the prep process this is important. Separation should also be done when food is stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
Keep It Clean
When you’re in the kitchen, make sure you wash your hands frequently—not just after directly handling meat and seafood. It’s also a good idea to keep nails trimmed short, so bacteria doesn’t have the opportunity to hide. Hands should be washed for at least 20 seconds, and all surfaces including cutting boards, utensils and countertops should be cleaned thoroughly after each use, with each type of food. It’s also a good idea to use paper towels for kitchen surfaces because sponges and dish towels can harbor bacteria and other health hazards.
Use a Food Thermometer
Judging whether or not food is done enough based on sight alone isn’t reliable, and it’s a common reason people become sick. A must-have tool for any kitchen is a food thermometer, which can be used not just to check on meat and poultry, but also eggs. There are different temperature requirements depending on the type of food, so be sure you’re aware of the proper temperature for each item you’re cooking.
Along with how you prepare it, your methods for storing food can also be critical to keeping your family and yourself safe from food-related illnesses. Cooked foods, meat, poultry, eggs, and even cut produce shouldn’t be left out at room temperature for more than two hours, for example. It’s also important to make sure your freezer and refrigerator area always kept at a temperature that’s high enough, and when defrosting keep foods in the fridge, in cold water, or do it by microwave. Leaving them on a counter can create a breeding ground for bacteria and health hazards.
The health of your family begins in the kitchen, so with smart, simple preparation, cleaning and storage tips you can reduce the likelihood of anyone becoming sick as a result of the food they’re eating.