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Wednesday, May 14 2008

Contaminated food poses a significant health hazard - one that we all must be careful to avoid. Harmful microorganisms and bacteria which can grow on virtually any food item can cause stomachaches, illness, or even death. Although there is no absolutely foolproof way to prevent exposure to these dangerous germs, practicing good food safety can greatly reduce your risk of being a victim of food poisoning.

Wash Your Hands

One of the simplest rules for food preparation is to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. To do this, wet your hands under warm, running water, lather with soap for at least 20 seconds, and rinse thoroughly afterwards. Make sure to clean inside skin creases and under fingernails; these are prime places for germs to hide. Though mundane, washing your hands helps prevent food poisoning in several ways. First, it prevents you from transferring any bacteria or harmful substances you may have accumulated on your hands onto your food. Second, by washing your hands frequently and between steps of food preparation, you can avoid cross-contaminating your food.

Cook Thoroughly

Meats, poultry, seafood, and eggs are some of the best places for bacteria to thrive. Raw meats are particularly notorious for containing any number of harmful germs. The best way to kill off these germs is by cooking all meat thoroughly; extreme heat will be able to destroy most germs. The best way to tell if meat has been cooked well is with a meat thermometer. Some rules of thumb: beef and pork should be cooked to 160 degrees, Poultry to 180 degrees, and ground meats to 165 degrees. Of course, not every has - or wants to buy - a meat thermometer. In this situation, color is often a good indicator - meats which are pink should be considered undercooked.

Avoid Cross-Contamination

Though fruits and vegetables are far less likely than meat to harbor dangerous bacteria, they are not 100% safe. Furthermore, if different types of food are mixed, bacteria can "jump ship" and cross-contaminate both foods. Blood and juices from raw meat, for example, contain large numbers of bacteria. If fruits or vegetables are exposed to this liquid, they can be contaminated as well. To avoid this, be sure to keep different types of food well separated. Cook in stages, and don't cut raw meat and vegetables on the same cutting board without washing it first.

Keep a Clean Kitchen

A popular set of statistics shows that kitchen counters, sinks, and surfaces are home to far more bacteria than the typical bathroom. One study showed that the kitchen cutting board - yes, the same board where you slice your meats, vegetables, fruits, and more - may have some 200 times the number of bacteria on the toilet seat. All these disgusting numbers show one thing - it is absolutely vital that you keep your kitchen clean. Don't allow garbage or leftovers to pile up. Wash dishes frequently and well. Replace worn or dirty cutting boards, cleaning rags, and sinks. The neater and cleaner your kitchen is, the less places germs can hide, breed, and wait to jump into the food you eat.

Now that you've mastered a few of the basics of safe food preparation, put them to use. For recipe ideas to jump-start your cooking, visit

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 09:58 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email

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