Food safety might not seem like a big deal to you, but little common mistakes in the kitchen can lead to dangerous consequences! The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) claims “an estimated 48 million people per year, get sick from a food borne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die.”
The FDA also has some concerns, saying that people who suffer from food poisoning, E coli, or any other food borne illness, might not be paying attention to how they are properly preparing their food.
Here is our list of food safety mistakes that people commonly make and how you can avoid making them!
1. Taste Testing Your Food
Wondering if your food might be spoiled? If the expiration date is unclear and it’s been a while, it’s best to avoid sampling the food. Instead, just pitch it!
The FDA says that the expiration dates are extremely important to pay attention to. Expiration dates are warning the consumer what the last possible date is to eat/use the item. Most foods that are either purchased or consumed AFTER the expiration date could contain spoilage and other harmful bacteria.
However, not all bacteria is visible; but it’s most likely on a spoiled food product and it will continue to grow. Definitely not worth a night of being sick over!
2. Thawing Food On The Counter
Using your counter as a place for thawing will cause the food item to reach temperatures anywhere from 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit (which is considered to be the “danger zone“). During this period of food “danger zone” is when pathogens multiply at a quick speed, causing food borne illness.
If you’re wanting to thaw out a frozen/perishable food, it’s better to do so in a safer environment – in the refrigerator.
3. Slightly Undercooked Meat/Poultry
Many people undercook their protein sources, which can contribute to dangerous cross-contamination and illness.
Eating undercooked beef can lead to E. coli, salmonella, and listeria. If you’re wanting to consume meats such as: chops, roasts or steaks of beef, lamb or pork, then the internal temperature should reach 145 degrees Fahrenheit. As for ground red meat, the internal temperature should reach 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Most chicken is already contaminated with pathogens before it’s even cooked! Poultry should be cooked at an internal temperature of 165 Fahrenheit. At that temperature, it is able to kill off any harmful microorganisms. Another way to tell if your chicken is fully cooked is by making sure that there is no pink color in sight and, instead, the insides should be cooked to a white color.
4. Not Washing Your Hands
This should be a given but, alas, here we are to remind you! If you are handling any type of food and aren’t thoroughly washing your hands beforehand, a plethora of bacteria are going to spread EVERYWHERE!
Make sure you’re washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water before touching any food.
5. Not Replacing Sponges Or Dishrags
Probably the most disgusting part of your kitchen lies within your cleaning tools. Once your cleaning tools start to smell, it’s time for the toss! It’s also best to wipe up any mess on the counters/table with a paper towel rather than a dish towel; Using a dish towel will only spread pathogens.
For those that wash your dishes by hand, you want to make sure you are either sanitizing them or replacing them every week or two. And in terms of location, it’s recommended to leave your sponges in a dry area. If the sponge is left out in a damp location in your kitchen, that’s giving it time for germs to multiply and allows bacteria to grow!
6. Letting Hot Food Cool
If you allow your hot food to sit out 1-2 hours, before consuming it, bacteria are only going to multiply and enter the “danger zone“.
Right after cooking, it’s best to either serve the food or package it up in some type of container or Tupperware and put it in the fridge.
7. Eating Raw Cookie Dough
Although you might be guilty of consuming raw dough before baking cookies, it’s not good for you! Why is that? Well, eggs are 100% to blame! Eggs are only safe to consume when cooked.
If you’re really wanting cookie dough, you have 2 options of how you can satisfy your craving! The first is to go to your local grocery store (or even online) and purchase some edible cookie dough. The second option would be to opt for a cookie dough recipe that does not use eggs. Many vegan cookie dough recipes are something to consider, especially because they use egg replacements such as applesauce or bananas.
8. Putting Cooked Meat Back On A Plate That Held Raw Meat
If you’ve let raw meat sit on a plate, it’s best to just use a new, clean, plate for when it is fully cooked and ready to serve/eat. Using separate plates will avoid cross-contamination.
This also goes for any utensils that you’ve used for raw meat! The germs that sit on that plate that held the raw meat are only going to spread and cause more problems than you would anticipate.
9. Handling Raw Produce
Before cooking/serving raw produce, it’s important to rinse off any possible bacteria that came from the soil in which it was planted in. It’s also very important to pay attention to potential recalls (remember the romaine drama?).
Dietician, Kelly Plowe, recommends that people “wash their produce under running water and rubbing to remove any stubborn dirt, even if you’re going to peel it, since slicing the skin pushes bacteria into the edible part of the fruit or vegetable.”
10. Washing Raw Chicken
While you might assume that washing your chicken is of sanitary precautions, it’s not! What you’re basically doing, when rinsing off raw poultry, is spreading germs around from the splashing of the water off of the chicken and into the sink.
The United States’ Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System reports that “out of 1114 outbreaks, poultry was associated with 279 (25%), accounting for the highest number of outbreaks, illnesses, and hospitalizations, and the second highest number of deaths. The most commonly reported factors contributing to poultry-associated outbreaks were food-handling errors (64%) and inadequate cooking (53%).”
If you are handling raw poultry, it’s best to immediately just start cooking it (whether it be on the stove or in the oven). The heat will kill off any bacteria (campylobacter or salmonella) that might have been living on the chicken.
11. Location Of Food In The Fridge
First off, it’s important to note that refrigerators should be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower and freezers should be kept at 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
Here is the best way to store specific items in you fridge:
Inside Doors: water, juices, and condiments (do NOT store eggs or dairy here)
The refrigerator doors are the warmest place, making it also the EASIEST place for food to spoil. Items that can “handle the heat” such as condiments are ideal for the door location.
Top Shelf: drinks, leftovers, ready-to-eat foods, and herbs
The top of the shelves should hold foods that do not need to be cooked again!
Lower Shelf: eggs, dairy, and raw meat
The low shelf is best for foods that you want to keep at the coldest temperatures.
Lower Shelf Drawers (Crisper): fruit and veggies
The crisper drawers are for keeping your produce fresh and moist!
You can also store nut butters, natural oils, and whole-grain flours in the fridge. However, do NOT refrigerate tomatoes, onions, squash, or potatoes!
Freezer: frozen fruit/veggies, stock, meat, tortillas, and bread
When it comes to items in the freezer, it’s best to make sure all of your food items are packaged tight and compact! Plastic containers or freezer bags can help out a lot with not only keeping your food safe and compact, but can also safe space in the freezer!