By: Hila Aran, MSc, RDN
Often our blog posts revolve around food and diet but let us not forget that your health comes first. There are several ways in which you can make sure your kitchen is safe for you and your entire family:
- Smart shopping. When you go to the grocery store this is your first step to ensure your kitchen is a safe zone. Make sure your choice of supermarket is one that carries products that come from credible sources and stores its products and produce safely. Dairy, meat and poultry, eggs and other items should be stored in cold temperatures. Produce should be fresh and stacked neatly. Make sure to place raw meat away from your produce in your cart, on the belt and in the packaging stage to prevent cross contamination of bacteria.
- Have a plan. Since there are some food items that are sensitive to warmer temperatures, and even room temperature, it is important to make sure you don’t leave them in this “danger zone” in which they have the potential to develop bacterial growth and to become contaminated. If you know you have a few stops to make on the way between your shopping spree and the time you get home, pack a cooler with ice packs to keep your food cool and prevent it from spoiling.
- Expand your collection of cutting boards. One way in which you can make sure your kitchen stays safe, as well as your family, is by using different cutting boards for different foods. This helps prevent cross contamination or the translocation of bacteria, from one food item to another. Ideally, you should have separate cutting boards for fruits and vegetable, fish and seafood, poultry and meat. Every so often it is recommended to wash your boards with bleach and not just with soap and water.
- Thaw your food wisely. Foods taken out of the freezer, especially fish and meat products should never be thawed on your counter top. Instead, plan ahead so they have enough time to thaw in the refrigerator, in a microwave if will be cooked immediately afterwards, or thawed under running water at a temperature of 70° F or below.
- Store your foods right. Storing your food properly not only keeps you safe and healthy, but can also save you big bucks. Your dry ingredients should ideally be stored in a clean cabinet with cool temperatures ranging between 50-79 ° Rotate your stock. Store your items in a way that will allow you to use the older ones first, and the newer ones later. What comes in first should be the first to come out. Items that need to be stored in the refrigerator require a bit more thought since often they are more sensitive. Foods should be placed in the fridge in the following order, from top to bottom; Ready to eat items, fish, meat, ground meat and lastly chicken.
- Leave the pesticides behind. Make sure to wash your fruits and vegetables with soap and water before use. Some are more sensitive and may accumulate pesticides and unwanted little friends such as strawberries, cabbage or lettuce.
- Know when to part from your leftovers. While we all love leftovers and I actually encourage you to bring them home when ordering a meal at a restaurant, leftovers should be discarded after two days.
- Keep it cooked. Different kinds of meats and seafood should be cooked at specified temperatures for a minimal time to make sure they are safe for you to consume: Fish, shellfish, pork, beef ,lamb and veal should be cooked at 145° F, ground beef should be cooked at 155° F and poultry should be cooked at 165° F for a minimum of 15 seconds to destroy harmful bacteria.
- Eat and store. One common misconception is to leave foods you just cooked to cool down before placing them in the refrigerator. This actually increases the chance of your food to sit in the danger zone of temperatures of 41-135 ° Instead, place your food in the refrigerator. Don’t worry, it will not overheat your fridge or cause other foods to spoil.
- Your rag and sponge are replaceable. Did you know that your kitchen rag/ sponge is one of the places in your home with the most bacteria on them? Leave the separation anxiety behind and replace them often.
Let’s get to work and make your kitchen a safer and healthier environment for everyone to enjoy!