Tips for food safety in the Mid-Atlantic States
When it comes to eating healthy, choosing nutrient-rich foods is just the first step. It’s also important to prevent foodborne illness by safely handling, storing, and preparing your meals and snacks. By following these simple tips, you can go a long way toward protecting yourself and your family.
Cleanliness is key
First, get your kitchen ready for food prep:
- Make sure your surfaces (like your counter and sink) are wiped clean before you place any food on them.
- If you use a sponge to clean surfaces, replace it every week. You can also kill germs in the sponge by running it through the dishwasher or microwaving it for one to two minutes at full power.
- After preparing food, thoroughly wipe down counters and other kitchen surfaces with warm, soapy water or antibacterial wipes (make sure to read the directions to see if you need to rinse the area after using these wipes).
- At least once a week, disinfect your kitchen sink (including stoppers and fixtures) with a reliable household cleaner.
To get your food clean:
- Thoroughly rinse your produce under warm tap water before preparing or eating it.
- For fruits and veggies with edible skins, use a firm-bristled brush to scrub their surfaces.
- It’s also a good idea to rinse fruits with skin that you peel and don’t eat, such as citrus or bananas.
Savvy ways to store your food
- As soon as you get home from the store, put all perishable items (such as dairy, eggs, and meat) in your refrigerator.
- When opening packaged food from the pantry, check the label to see if you should refrigerate it afterward. Jarred items like mayonnaise, pickles, and spaghetti sauce should be refrigerated after opening.
- Always defrost food in your refrigerator instead of at room temperature (on your countertop). You can also thaw frozen food in a cold water bath or in the microwave (using the defrost setting), as long as you cook it immediately afterward.
To prepare and cook food safely
- Keep separate cutting boards in your kitchen: one for raw meat, fish, and poultry, and the other for your produce. This prevents cross-contamination, which happens when produce picks up germs from meat through a shared surface.
- When microwaving, cover the dish and set the timer for intervals of 30–45 seconds. Stir the food between intervals to heat your food evenly. This even heating will help make sure any harmful bacteria is killed.
- Use glass containers to microwave food; plastic containers can warp or melt before your food is heated through.
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