It’s summer time and that means along with the temperature, food borne illness will also be on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ever year in the USA approximately 48 million Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from food poisoning. Take extra caution when handling your food so it doesn’t make you sick.
Here are the most common mistakes people make when it comes to food safety.
- Mistake #1: Tasting food to see if it’s still good to eat
Do not taste your food to check if it still tastes good. You can’t taste, see or even smell the bacteria that causes food poisoning, and tasting just a tiny bit of contaminated food can cause serious illness. Throw away all expired food before harmful bacteria grows. Take a few minutes for prevention and always cover, label and date left overs when you put them in the refrigerator and use up left overs within 3 to 7 days. TIP: Keep a role of masking tape and a permanent marker in your kitchen draw to make labeling the left overs easy.
- Mistake #2: Putting cooked or ready-to-eat foods back on a plate that held raw meat
This is a common mistake people make when they are barbecuing outdoors. Never let raw meat, poultry or seafood touch cooked meat or any ready-to-eat foods, as this can cause cross-contamination. Foodborne pathogens from the raw meat can easily spread to ready-to-eat foods and cause food poisoning. Always use separate plates, cutting boards and utensils to keep raw meats, poultry and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods.
- Mistake #3: Thawing food on the counter
This has to be one of the most frequently overlooked rules of food preparation and food safety. Harmful foodborne pathogens multiply rapidly when certain foods, especially meats, poultry and fish, are sitting out at room temperature. Instead, always thaw foods in the refrigerator, cold water or in the microwave.
- Mistake #4: Washing meat or poultry
Never wash raw meat or poultry because this will easily spread bacteria to your sink, countertops and other kitchen surfaces.
- Mistake #5: Letting food cool before putting it in the fridge
Don’t leave food out of the refrigerator for more than two hours or one hour if it is over 90°F outside. Illness-causing bacteria can grow rapidly when perishable foods are left in the danger zone — between 40°F and 140°F. Always refrigerate foods in a timely matter. If you left food out overnight by mistake then don’t take chances, just throw it away.
- Mistake #6: Eating raw cookie dough (and other foods containing uncooked eggs and flour) Yes people love to eat raw cookie dough, which is why some manufacturers now offer a “safe to eat” raw cookie dough which is pasteurized. But never eat your homemade cookie dough. The raw eggs can contain Salmonella or other harmful bacteria. Believe it or not even raw dough without eggs should not be consumed as raw flour may contain E. coli and cause people to get sick.
- Mistake #7: Marinating meat or seafood on the counter OR Using raw meat marinade on cooked food.
Never marinate meat, poultry or seafood on the counter or use the same marinade for raw meat and cooked food. If you use the same marinade on raw and cooked meats, the harmful bacteria from the raw food will spread to the cooked food. Always marinate raw meat, seafood and poultry in the bottom of the refrigerator and throw away the left over marinade that the raw meat was siting in.
- Mistake #8: Undercooking meat, poultry, seafood or eggs
Cooked food is safe only after it’s been heated to a high enough internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria. In order to avoid eating undercooked foods, you must use a food thermometer — this is the only way to determine if cooked foods are safe to eat. Do not rely on sight, smell or taste to tell whether your food is done.
- Mistake #9: Not washing your hands
Probably the number one reason people get sick is poor hand hygiene. Illness-causing bacteria can survive in many places particularly on your hands. Always wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm, running water before and after handling food.
- Mistake #10: Not replacing sponges and changing out the dish cloth
Ironically, the sponge and the dish cloth are some of the dirtiest tools in your kitchen. They can hold harmful foodborne pathogens and cause a serious health risk. Always sanitize your sponges at least every other day and replace them every week or two for best protection against germs. The USDA found that 99 % of bacteria, yeasts and molds were killed by microwave heating damp sponges for one minute or by putting them in dishwashing with a drying cycle. Sponges may also be disinfected with a solution of one-quarter to one-half of a teaspoon of concentrated bleach per quart of warm water. Soak the sponge for one minute. Replace your dishcloth daily with a clean one. Wash all dish cloths on a high temperature and let them complete dry before using them again. Spray down counter tops with a kitchen disinfectant before and after food preparation.
Avoiding these common mistakes may save your life or at least save you from a bad case of food poisoning.
If you have other food safety tips to share please add them to the comments below.
Adapted from America Nutrition and Dietetic association 10 Common Food Safety Mistakes Published June 16, 2016