Easy Food Safety Tips For Your Home
You’ve childproofed the cabinets, stashed away the sharp knives, and are vigilant about keeping your child’s curious little fingers away from the hot stovetop. But there’s another potential hazard lurking in your kitchen — food-borne bacteria. Every year, there are more than 75 million cases of food-borne illnesses. Luckily, most of those cases are mild, but they’re potentially more serious for a young child, whose immune system isn’t as strong as an adult’s — which is why you need to be extra-careful about food prep (and storage). Here’s how:
Wash your hands. It’s the simplest food safety tip and the most important. Washing your hands with hot, soapy water before you prepare a meal, a snack, or a bottle is your best line of defense against the spread of bacteria.
Stay a cut above. Keep separate cutting boards for produce and for meat, poultry, and fish. Wash them thoroughly after each use (in the dishwasher or with hot, soapy water) and toss them once they get scarred from too much use. Bacteria hide (and multiply) in the little crevices.
Be mindful of raw materials. Never place cooked food on the same plate (or bowl or cutting board) that previously held raw food (especially meat, but also vegetables and fruit). So when you take a plate of hamburger patties to the grill, make sure you bring an extra for the cooked burgers.
Scrub those surfaces. Or at least wipe them down with a disinfectant wipe. Bacteria are fast breeders, especially on kitchen surfaces, so thwart their reproductive efforts with soapy water or disinfectant cleaners often. Pay special attention to counters, the sink, and the dish drainer — and don’t forget about appliance handles and trash-can lids.
Don’t overlook the dish towel or sponge. Moist dish towels and sponges are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. So wash both often. Throw towels and washcloths in the washing machine with a little bleach. Try to replace sponges once a month, and wash them in between uses. You can put them in the dishwasher overnight. Or pop them in the microwave for 30 seconds to kill germs.
Practice safe storage. You want to make sure the meals you’re feeding your family are as safe as they are nourishing, so follow these food safety tips when you’re storing leftovers:
- Cold means cold (at or less than 40°F): Refrigerate food that won’t be served or eaten immediately. Once you’re done eating, wrap those leftovers and place them in the fridge (or freezer). This way those leftovers will be safe to serve again.
- Hot means hot (at or above 140°F): When reheating leftovers, zap those germs with plenty of heat. Microwave food until it is hot and steaming. Reheat soups until they begin to boil again.
- Don’t refreeze foods: If you’ve thawed out something at room temperature or left it in the fridge overnight, don’t stick it back in the freezer.
Keep your baby’s food safe. Whether your little one is drinking breast milk, formula, or chowing down on solids, remember these food safety tips:
- Throw out any leftover breast milk, formula, or jarred baby food. Your baby’s saliva (from the nipple or spoon) can turn that jar of pureed peas or that bottle of formula or breast milk into a breeding ground for bacteria.
- Store breast milk right away if you’re not using it. It’ll keep up to four days in the fridge (if you store it at 39°F). Or you can freeze it.
- When you’re buying formula, always check the expiration date and make sure the container isn’t dented (or leaking). Don’t store formula for more than 48 hours in the fridge.