Food safety is important because it ensures that meals are free of food-borne pathogens that can make you very ill. You know not to eat food that is clearly spoiled, but it’s easy to make these other mistakes when it comes to food safety.
Being aware of them can help you avoid making them next time.
Leaving Food Out Too Long
Food begins to multiply with bacteria when it isn’t properly heated or chilled. When you’re having a picnic, barbecue or party, you often lay all the food out for guests to enjoy throughout the event.
Food can only be left out for so long before it starts to go bad and can make you sick. The experts at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services caution against food that has been sitting out for more than two hours. You can shorten that time to one hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees.
Improper Hand Washing
It’s vital to wash your hands before and after cooking, especially if you are handling raw meat. The Mayo Clinic recommends using warm water and soap to kill any germs on your hands so they aren’t transferred to food or other parts of your kitchen that come into contact with food items.
Raw chicken is one of the most dangerous foods harboring bacteria that can cause illness. For that reason, it’s important to use a separate cutting board and utensils when you prep it. That way the raw chicken fluids aren’t transferred to counter tops, foods you eat raw, such as vegetables, or the utensil you use to prepare other parts of the meal.
This is also true of any raw meat, fish or unwashed fruits and vegetables. Keep a separate cutting board for each food group to help eliminate the dangers.
Foods Aren’t Cooked To The Right Temperature
Raw meats must reach a certain internal temperature before you can be sure all the potential bacteria have been killed. Eating under-cooked meats is one of the most common ways that people contract a food-borne illness.
According to the Mayo Clinic, chicken and turkey must reach 165 degrees, ground beef needs to be 160 degrees and steaks and pork chops should be at least 145 degrees in the center.
Don’t Defrost On The Counter
Instead, place frozen foods in the refrigerator to thaw. This keeps them chilled so that bacteria don’t have a chance to grow like they do when you place meats on the counter to thaw.
Don’t Overstuff Your Refrigerator
Putting too much food in your refrigerator keeps the cold air from circulating properly, which means your foods may be at temperatures that are warmer than is safe. Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature and avoid putting too much into the fridge at any one time.
Using A Sponge To Wash Food
If you pick up the same sponge you wash dishes with and use it to clean fruits and vegetables, you are likely transferring bacteria and germs that can make you sick. Use warm water and a dash of soap and wash your food with clean hands instead.
Keeping Eggs On The Refrigerator Door
The warmest part of your refrigerator is the door, so anything you keep there is naturally going to be held at a higher temperature than the internal portion. Don’t keep eggs on the door as they could be at unsafe temperatures since the air on the door warms up each time the refrigerator is opened.
Use the door for things like condiments and syrup, which need to be chilled but not at the same low temperature as eggs.
Eating Old Leftovers
In general, the Mayo Clinic recommends throwing out any food that you are in doubt about. However, many people eat leftovers that have been in the refrigerator for too long.
Often the bacteria that can make you sick won’t change the sight, smell or taste of your food, but the longer it’s stored, the more likely it is to make you sick. A good rule of thumb is to avoid eating any leftovers that have been in the refrigerator for more than four days.
Pasteurization helps make certain foods safe to eat. Eating the unpasteurized version increases the risk of food poisoning. This includes milk, juice and cheese. Read the label to be sure you are getting what you want.
Foods Prepared By Unknown People
More people get sick via foods in restaurants than at home. This is often due to improper food storage and poor hand washing by the chefs. If you worry that a place isn’t clean enough to eat, follow your gut and find a new restaurant.