You can keep your family safe from food poisoning by following four basic steps: Clean, separate, cook and chill. The USDA offers these tips to reduce the risk of foodborne illness for the New Year and beyond.
• Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food and after using the bathroom or changing diapers.
• Wash your hands after playing with pets or visiting petting zoos.
• Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next food.
• Consider using paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces. If you use cloth towels wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
• Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten.
• Rub firm-skinned fruits and vegetables under running tap water or scrub with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing with running tap water.
• Keep books, backpacks or shopping bags off the kitchen table or counters where food is prepared or served.
• Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry and seafood.
• Use a food thermometer, which measures the internal temperature of cooked meat, poultry and egg dishes, to make sure that the food is cooked to a safe internal temperature.
• Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs.
• Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, and other perishables as soon as you get them home from the store.
• Never let raw meat, poultry, eggs, cooked food or cut fresh fruits or vegetables sit at room temperature more than two hours before putting them in the refrigerator or freezer (one hour when the temperature is above 90°F).
• Never defrost food at room temperature. Food must be kept at a safe temperature during thawing. There are three safe ways to defrost food: In the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave using the defrost setting. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately.
• Always marinate food in the refrigerator.
• Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.
• Use or discard refrigerated food on a regular basis.
More information regarding food safety is available through the Harlan County Extension office.
Theresa Howard is the Harlan County extension agent for family and consumer sciences. Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.