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Wednesday, February 20 2008

Consumers who know the basics of food safety may say one thing and do another, according to Janet B. Anderson, MS, RD. Anderson is Director of the Food Safety Institute at Utah State University. She videotaped 122 participants as they prepared food. Each received a bag of groceries, a recipe, and completed a survey after fixing the recipe.

The results are reported in "What Consumers Say They Do . . . What They Actually Do: A Comparison." Sixty per cent of the participants said they washed their hands before preparing food. Reality: 52 % washed their hands. Seventy-five per cent of the participants said not washing hands after handling raw eggs was dangerous. Reality: 60% failed to wash their hands. Anderson's study contains more eye-opening statistics.

The lesson here is that we often know things but don't do them. Though you know food safety basics, you may not follow them because you are thinking of other things or in a hurry. Post this list in your kitchen and follow these tips. Make sure your kids follow them too.

* After handling food wash your hands with hot soapy water for two minutes.

* Wash your hands after blowing your nose, touching your face, changing dirty diapers, touching pets, and going to the bathroom.

* Dry your hands on paper towels.

* Do not eat, smoke, or chew gum while preparing food.

* Wear rubber gloves if your fingers are chapped, cracked, or cut.

* Use separate cutting boards for produce and meat.

* Wash the cutting board well after each use.

* Clean counter tops with a weak bleach solution.

* Launder dishcloths, sponges, dish towels and hand towels daily.

* Make sure your refrigerator is set between 32 and 40 degrees.

* Thaw food in the refrigerator or cold water, not on the counter.

* Refrigerate hot food immediately.

* Do not baste food with marinade that has been used on raw meat.

* Use a thermometer to check the inner temperature of food. Hamburger should be cooked until it reaches 160 degrees.

* When grilling, use separate plates for raw and cooked food.

* Clean your microwave -- walls, ceiling, rotating plate -- regularly.

* Follow slow cooker instructions to the letter.

For more food safety tips see the USDA publication, "Food Safety and Security: What Consumers Need to Know."


"Cooking for Groups: A Volunteer's Guide to Food Safety," Food Safety and Inspection Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture,

"Hand Washing: A Simple Way to Prevent Infection,"

State of Wisconsin, Department of Health & Family Services. "Food Handling & Housekeeping,"  

University of Wisconsin (Madison), Department of Food Science. "Food Safety in Your Home,"

Copoyright 2007 by Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelance nonfiction writer for 28 years. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, an avid cook, and practices food safety. Her 24th book, "Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief," written with Lois Krahn, MD, is available from A fve-star review of the book is posted on Amazon. You will find another review on the American Hospice Foundation Web site under the "School Corner" heading.

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