Food Safety Tips.

Food Safety Tips.

 The CDC estimates that food-borne diseases cause 76 million illnesses in the United States each year. While some contamination occurs at the source and is out of our control, there is still a lot we can do at home to prepare food safely and lessen the risk of illness from food-borne pathogens. Below are five essential ingredients for food safety

1. Avoid cross-contamination. Keep countertops, hands, and tools clean. Use a separate cutting board for meats - be especially careful around produce that won't be cooked. Glass or acrylic boards are easy to scrub and sanitize with a mild solution of bleach and water. Replace acrylic boards once they become pitted and difficult to clean.

2. Store food at proper temperatures. Use appliance thermometers to keep the refrigerator at an optimal 38 degrees Fahrenheit (no higher than 40) and the freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. In the grocery store, get cold items last. Insulated shopping bags or an insulated cooler in the trunk of your car will help keep items cold for the trip home.

3. Defrost safely. Bacteria multiply rapidly at temperatures between 40 - 140 degrees Fahrenheit, so it isn't a good idea to defrost food on the counter or in hot water. The best method is to defrost in the refrigerator. In a pinch, using the microwave, or a cold water soak (provided the food is in a water-tight container), are acceptable, with one caveat: make sure to cook food immediately.

4. Cook food to proper internal temperatures. The only safe way to tell if food is cooked is to use a food thermometer. Judging doneness by color alone can be deceptive. Follow usage instructions on your particular thermometer carefully to ensure an accurate reading. An oven thermometer is also helpful for monitoring cooking temperatures.

5. Refrigerate leftovers promptly. Don't leave cooked food at room temperature for more than 2 hours, or for more than 1 hour in hot weather (above 90 degrees). It is okay to allow food to cool slightly before putting it away so as not to raise the temperature inside the refrigerator to unsafe levels.

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