Food Safety Guide
When you put food before your family, do you know if it is safe for them to eat? Food safety is something everyone has to be concerned with,
from the restaurant owner to the single guy making microwave meals for dinner. There are many serious risks that come from ignoring food safety,
so learn all you can if you are a cook.
Not handling food correctly could put those who eat it at risk
for serious diseases such as e coli and salmonella . These bacteria make people very sick,
and some can even die from a food-borne infection. Many foods, especially raw meats, are home to the bacteria that cause these illnesses, and if
you do not cook the food properly, you risk exposing your family to them.
There are four common mistakes cooks make that increase the
risk of food-borne illnesses. These include not washing their hands frequently while cooking and handling food, not separating raw meat from food
that won't be cooked, not cooking to the right temperature, and not storing food properly.
The first thing
to do to avoid food-borne illnesses is to wash your hands properly with soap and hot water. After handling raw meat, wash your hands again. Wash any
surfaces that come in contact with raw meat before using them for other foods. Read the
CDC's guide for proper hand washing for more information about
keeping your hands clean.
Always cook your food to the proper temperature. The Minnesota
Department of Health has an excellent chart showing the proper internal temperatures of most meats. Remember to test the center of the meat away from any bones with
a meat thermometer when checking the temperature. Never judge meat simply by how it looks. The only way to be sure that the food-borne bacteria have been killed is to
use a meat thermometer.
When storing food, make sure it is stored in the refrigerator at a temperature below 40 degrees. Do not keep food out of the fridge for
more than two hours. This includes food out at a buffet or the pizza you are munching on during the game. Bacteria begin to multiply quite quickly when the food cools
off or warms up to room temperature. Learn more about what to do with leftovers at the European
Food Information Council .
Defrost frozen meats properly. Either defrost them in the refrigerator or in a sink full of cool water. Leaving the meat on the counter
to thaw increases the chances that bacteria will begin to grow, since bacteria love room temperatures. When thawing meat, the outside comes to room temperature long before the
entire piece is thawed, which increases your risk. More information about safely thawing meat can be found at the United States Department of
Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service website.
Remember, those you love and cook for on a regular basis are counting on you to protect them from food-borne illnesses. Proper food handling is not
difficult if you have the right knowledge.