Tips For Safe Food Preparation

Make your foods safe. Handling foods properly before and after cooking is important to protect against potentially deadly bacteria.

Precautions against food poisoning and contamination should begin even before the food reaches the home. When shopping, always select cold and frozen foods last to take advantage of the cold temperature protection as long as possible. Next, enclose all containers of meat in plastic bags to reduce the chance of blood or other liquids seeping onto the rest of the grocery items. Never buy foods after the "use by" date. Take perishables directly home and refrigerate or freeze immediately. For meats that will not be used in a few days, freeze immediately. Regular ground meats should be used within 2 days. Meat, poultry, fish and deli meats should be used within three or four days.

Always thaw food in the refrigerator or microwave. Never let food thaw outside the refrigerator on tables or countertops. If thawing by microwave, cook food immediately. If marinating food, do so in the refrigerator and discard when marinating is over. This liquid contains bacteria from the raw meat that can be very harmful.

Before preparing food, always wash hands with hot water and soap. Never touch food or utensils after going to the bathroom until hands are thoroughly washed. Use wooden cutting boards, if possible. It has been proven that bacteria is harder to kill on plastic cutting boards than wooden ones. If you are using a cutting board for more than one type of food such as meats and then vegetables, make sure to scrub the board thoroughly after chopping each type of food.

Always use clean utensils and separate utensils for each food dish. Do not use a plate upon which food was thawed as a serving plate unless it is wash beforehand with very hot soapy water. For a solution to clean and sanitize dishes and utensils, add one capful of household bleach per two gallons of hot water.

Keep food covered until serving and do not leave cooked food at room temperature for more than two hours or, if in a very hot environment, not more than one hour. Also, do not partially cook meats, poultry or fish to be finished later. Cook meat until completely done.

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