June is National Safety Month. One aspect of safety that can easily be overlooked in our busy day-to-day lives is food safety & safe food handling practices.

Food safety awareness

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June is National Safety Month. One aspect of safety that can easily be overlooked in our busy day-to-day lives is food safety & safe food handling practices.

Correct food handling is an important, easy, and cost-effective way to keep you, your family, and friends safe from possible deadly illnesses. The populations that are especially susceptible to foodborne illness are the young, the elderly, and anyone with a compromised immune system.

First, always start by correctly washing your hands. Our hands come in contact with many different types of bacteria and contaminants throughout the day. Washing your hands properly is an easy and quick way stop the transfer of those bacteria that can make you and your family sick. To correctly wash your hands: rinse with clean water, apply soap, scrub hands for at least 20 seconds, rinse thoroughly with clean water, and dry with clean towel or air dry. Wash your hands before and after handling foods, after touching raw meats and eggs, using the bathroom, touching your skin/face, or handling garbage.

The next thing to keep in mind is temperature. It is important to cook food to the correct internal temperature, but it is also vital to not let food stay in the Temperature Danger Zone. The Temperature Danger Zone is from 40°F to 140°F and is considered dangerous because bacteria can rapidly grow at these temperatures. Refrigerate food that is not shelf-stable within two hours or within 1 hour if it is more than 90° outside (think of the temperature when grilling or at a backyard BBQ.) A simple way to remember this is to keep hot foods hot (>140°F) and cold foods cold (<40°F). Chicken and wild game should be cooked to 165°F, ground meats to 160°F, pork to 145°F, and all reheated items to 165°F. Consider investing in a kitchen thermometer so that you can accurately measure the temperature of your food.

Lastly, prevent cross-contamination of raw meat with ready-to-eat food. When grilling, use a new, clean plate to put your cooked meat on; don’t put it back on the same plate. Wash and sanitize your cutting board after prepping raw meats. Preferably, cut up raw fruits and vegetable before the meat. This way there is less opportunity for the bacteria from the raw meat to contaminate your fruits and vegetables (or any ready-to-eat food.) Also, think about what and how you are cleaning your kitchen and dishes. Sponges and kitchen towels can harbor bacteria. Wash your kitchen towels regularly and sanitize your sponge with bleach. Store raw meats on the lowest shelf in your refrigerator or in a leak proof container. This way, if it drips it won’t come in contact with your ready-to-eat foods.

A quick summary:

  • Wash your hands before cooking, after handling raw meats or eggs, after touching your face/skin, or after handling garbage
  • Cook food to the minimum safe internal temperature
  • Prevent cross contamination by storing meat properly and by handling raw meat correctly

For more information on food safety follow this link:  https://www.foodsafety.gov/index.html

Jacki Adams is an inpatient registered dietitian nutritionist at Sentara RMH Medical Center. Jacki is a graduate of James Madison University and has over 15 years of experience in the food service industry. She enjoys encouraging patients to find new and creative ways to get back in the kitchen to make healthy meals.