Search Foodconsumer & Others
More than 100 credit cards available at uscards.com
||Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM
The idea that the
food on the dinner table can make someone sick may be disturbing, but
there are many steps you can take to protect your families and dinner
guests. It's just a matter of following basic rules of food safety.
Prevention of foodborne illness
starts with your trip to the supermarket.
Pick up your packaged and canned
Don't buy food in cans that are
bulging or dented or in jars that
are cracked or have loose or bulging
Don't eat raw shellfish and
use only pasteurized milk and cheese
and pasteurized or otherwise treated
ciders and juices if you have a
health problem, especially one
that may have impaired your immune
Choose eggs that are refrigerated
in the store. Before putting them
in your cart, open the carton and
make sure that the eggs are clean
and none are cracked.
Select frozen foods and perishables
such as meat, poultry or fish last.
Always put these products in separate
plastic bags so that drippings
don't contaminate other foods in
your shopping cart.
Don't buy frozen seafood if the
packages are open, torn or crushed
on the edges. Avoid packages that
are above the frost line in the
store's freezer. If the package
cover is transparent, look for
signs of frost or ice crystals.
This could mean that the fish has
either been stored for a long time
or thawed and refrozen.
Check for cleanliness at the
meat or fish counter and the salad
bar. For instance, cooked shrimp
lying on the same bed of ice as
raw fish could become contaminated.
When shopping for shellfish,
buy from markets that get their
supplies from state-approved sources;
stay clear of vendors who sell
shellfish from roadside stands
or the back of a truck. And if
you're planning to harvest your
own shellfish, heed posted warnings
about the safety of the water.
Take an ice chest along to keep
frozen and perishable foods cold
if it will take more than an hour
to get your groceries home.
The first rule of food storage in the home is to refrigerate or
freeze perishables right away. The refrigerator temperature should
be 40 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius), and the freezer should
be zero F (minus 18 C). Check both "fridge" and freezer periodically
with a refrigerator/freezer thermometer.
Poultry and meat heading for the refrigerator may be stored
as purchased in the plastic wrap for a day or two. If only part
of the meat or poultry is going to be used right away, it can be
wrapped loosely for refrigerator storage. Just make sure juices
can't escape to contaminate other foods.
Wrap tightly foods destined for the freezer. Leftovers should be
stored in tight containers.
Store eggs in their carton in the refrigerator itself rather
than on the door, where the temperature is warmer.
Seafood should always be kept in the refrigerator or freezer
until preparation time.
Don't crowd the refrigerator or freezer so tightly that air
can't circulate. Check the leftovers
in covered dishes and storage bags
daily for spoilage. Anything that
looks or smells suspicious should be thrown out.
A sure sign of spoilage is the presence of mold, which can grow
even under refrigeration. While not a major health threat, mold
can make food unappetizing. Most
moldy foods should be thrown out.
But you might be able to save molding
hard cheeses, salami, and firm
fruits and vegetables if you cut
out not only the mold but a large
area around it. Cutting the larger
area around the mold is important
because much of the mold growth
is below the surface of the food.
Always check the labels on cans
or jars to determine how the contents
should be stored. Many items besides
fresh meats, vegetables, and dairy
products need to be kept cold.
For instance, mayonnaise and ketchup
should go in the refrigerator after
opening. If you've neglected to
refrigerate items, it's usually
best to throw them out.
Some precautions will help make
sure that foods that can be stored
at room temperature remain safe.
Potatoes and onions should not
be stored under the sink because
leakage from the pipes can damage
the food. Potatoes don't belong
in the refrigerator, either. Store
them in a cool, dry place. Don't
store foods near household cleaning
products and chemicals.
Check canned goods to see whether
any are sticky on the outside.
This may indicate a leak. Newly
purchased cans that appear to be
leaking should be returned to the
store, which should notify the
Keep It Clean
The first cardinal rule of safe food preparation in the home is: Keep everything clean.
The cleanliness rule applies to the areas where food is prepared and, most importantly, to the cook.
Wash hands with warm water and
soap for at least 20 seconds before
starting to prepare a meal and
after handling raw meat or poultry.
Cover long hair with a net or
scarf, and be sure that any open
sores or cuts on the hands are
completely covered. If the sore
or cut is infected, stay out of
Keep the work area clean and
uncluttered. Wash countertops with
a solution of 1 teaspoon of chlorine
bleach to 1 quart of water or with
a commercial kitchen cleaning agent
diluted according to product directions.
They're the most effective at getting
rid of bacteria.
Also, be sure to keep dishcloths
clean because, when wet, they can
harbor bacteria and may promote
their growth. Wash dishcloths weekly
in hot water in the washing machine.
Sanitize the kitchen sink drain
periodically by pouring down the
sink a solution of 1 teaspoon of
bleach to 1 quart of water or a
commercial kitchen cleaning agent.
Food particles get trapped in the
drain and disposal and, along with
the moistness, create an ideal
environment for bacterial growth.
Use smooth cutting boards made
of hard maple or a non-porous material
such as plastic and free of cracks
and crevices. Avoid boards made
of soft, porous materials. Wash
cutting boards with hot water and
soap, using a scrub brush. Then,
sanitize them by washing in an
automatic dishwasher or by rinsing
with a solution of 1 teaspoon of
chlorine bleach to 1 quart of water.
Always wash and sanitize cutting
boards after using them for raw
foods, such as seafood or chicken,
and before using them for ready-to-eat
foods. Consider using one cutting
board only for foods that will
be cooked, such as raw fish, and
another only for ready-to-eat foods,
such as bread, fresh fruit, and
Always use clean utensils and
wash them between cutting different
Wash the lids of canned foods
before opening to keep dirt from
getting into the food. Also, clean
the blade of the can opener after
each use. Food processors and meat
grinders should be taken apart
and cleaned as soon as possible
after they are used.
Do not put cooked meat on an
unwashed plate or platter that
has held raw meat.
Wash fresh fruits and vegetables
thoroughly, rinsing under running
water. Don't use soap or other
detergents. If necessary--and appropriate--use
a small scrub brush to remove surface
Keep Temperature Right
The second cardinal rule of safe home food preparation is: Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
Use a digital or dial food thermometer
to ensure that meats are completely
cooked. Insert the thermometer
into the center of the food and
wait 30 seconds to ensure an accurate
measurement. Beef, lamb, and veal
should be cooked to at least 145
F (63 C); pork and ground beef
to 160 F (71 C); whole poultry
and thighs to 180 F (82 C); poultry
breasts to 170 F (77 C); and ground
chicken or turkey to 165 F (74
Eggs should be cooked until the
white and the yolk are firm. Avoid
foods containing raw eggs, such
as homemade ice cream, mayonnaise,
eggnog, cookie dough and cake batter,
because they carry a Salmonella
risk. Their commercial counterparts
usually don't because they're made
with pasteurized eggs. Cooking
the egg-containing product to an
internal temperature of at least
160 F (71 C) will kill the bacteria.
Seafood should be thoroughly
cooked to an internal temperature
of at least 145 F (63 C). Fish
that's ground or flaked, such as
a fish cake, should be cooked to
at least 155 F (68 C), and stuffed
fish to at least 165 F (74 C).
If you don't have a food thermometer, look for other signs of doneness. For example:
Fish is done when the thickest
part becomes opaque and the fish
flakes easily when poked with a
Shrimp can be simmered three
to five minutes or until the shells
Clams and mussels are steamed
over boiling water until the shells
open (five to 10 minutes). Then
boil three to five minutes longer.
Oysters should be sautéed,
baked or boiled until plump, about
Protect food from cross-contamination
after cooking, and eat it promptly.
Cooked foods should not be left
standing on the table or kitchen
counter for more than two hours.
Disease-causing bacteria grow in
temperatures between 40 and 140
F (4 and 60 C). Cooked foods that
have been in this temperature range
for more than two hours should
not be eaten.
If a dish is to be served hot,
get it from the stove to the table
as quickly as possible. Reheated
foods should be brought to a temperature
of at least 165 F (74 C). Keep
cold foods in the refrigerator
or on a bed of ice until serving.
This rule is particularly important
to remember in the summer months.
After the meal, leftovers should
be refrigerated as soon as possible.
(Never mind that scintillating
dinner table conversation!) Meats
should be cut in slices of three
inches or less and all foods should
be stored in shallow containers
to hasten cooling. Be sure to remove
all the stuffing from roast turkey
or chicken and store it separately.
Giblets should also be stored separately.
Leftovers should be used within
And here are just a few more parting tips to keep your favorite dishes safe.
Don't thaw meat and other frozen
foods at room temperature. Instead,
move them from the freezer to the
refrigerator for a day or two;
or defrost submerged in cold water.
You can also defrost in the microwave
oven or during the cooking process.
Cook foods immediately after defrosting
in the microwave or cold water.
Never taste any food that looks
or smells "off" or comes out of
leaking, bulging or severely damaged
cans or jars with leaky lids.
Though all these dos and don'ts may seem overwhelming, remember, if
you want to stay healthy, when it comes to food safety, the old saying
"rules are made to be broken" does not apply!
Source: Excerpted from FDA Consumer - The Unwelcome Dinner Guest: Preventing Foodborne Illness, Jan.-Feb. 1991; Revised Dec. 1997, Feb. 1999, Oct. 1999, June 2000, July 2002 and March 2003
© 2004-2008 by foodconsumer.org unless otherwise specified
Top of Page
Search Consumer-friendly Health Sites