Keeping Your Kitchen and Your Family Food-Safe

In light of serious food recalls, ranging from spinach and cantaloupes to ground turkey, it's important to revisit one of the most important components of keeping ourselves healthy: what we eat.

These recalls have shown us that it isn't just raw chicken that can carry salmonella, or an old egg salad sandwich that carries listeria - following safe food guidelines is important, no matter what you're eating., an online repository of recall information, has provided the following steps to keeping your food safe:

- Wash Your Hands Often!

You should wash your hands and any surfaces that food comes into contact with often. Unfortunately, just running your hands under the sink isn't going to cut it when it comes to killing harmful bacteria. You should use warm water and soap, and wash for at least 20 seconds. 

- Wash Fruits & Veggies, But Skip Meats & Eggs

It may seem like common sense to give your chicken or fish a rinse before beginning to prepare it, but new research suggests that it actually makes things worse. As you move the food around your kitchen, bacteria-contaminated water could drip or splash onto your countertops and skinks. Same goes for eggs - commercially sold eggs are rinsed before sale, and any extra handling can cause cross-contamination, especially if they become cracked. 

- Sanitize Utensils & Surfaces Often

It may seem tedious, but giving your cutting boards and utensils (especially knives) a quick sanitizing bath is the best way to prevent contamination. Mix a solution of 1 teaspoon bleach and one quart of water and spray all over a surface. Allow to rest for 10 minutes, then rinse away with clean water. For cutting boards and utensils, make a bath of this solution and allow them to soak. 

- Don't Cross-Contaminate

You've always heard to use a different cutting board for meats and vegetables, but new research suggests that you should go even further than that. Because they are easily sanitized, plastic, non-porous cutting boards are best. Some experts even suggest to use a different cutting board for each type of food - produce, poultry, seafood, and eggs. This advice also extends to the refrigerator and grocery store. Ask that your butcher place meats in plastic bags, and store those meats away from other types of food in the refrigerator.  

- Cook To The Right Temperature And Keep It There

"Eyeballing" it may work for some things, but your food's internal temperature isn't one of them. Invest in a food thermometer and use it. Once your food has been prepared, it is also important to keep it warm. Use a slow cooker, chafing dish, or warm oven to keep food out of the "Danger Zone" - the 100 degree range (40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit) where bacterial growth is highest. It's also important to consider the temperature of your food when you are re-heating it. Even though cold pizza may sound appealing, it's important to make sure that you're re-heating it to 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill any bacteria. 

- Chill Food Promptly, Thaw It Right, And Know When To Throw It Out suggests chilling perishable food within two hours, but that's only effective if your refrigerator and freezer are at the right temperatures (Fridge should be between 40-32 degrees Fahrenheit and freezer should be below 0 degrees Fahrenheit). Thawing foods on the counter is also a no-no, use your microwave or a bath of cool water. When you're reaching into the fridge to grab something for dinner, make sure that you know when you put it in there. Your nose and eyes aren't always the best way to tell when your food's gone bad. Check out this list of safe storage times for many common foods